Where are the Pacific nursing voices?

Former Cook Islands health secretary Elizabeth Iro (centre) received a ceremonial welcome home at the start of the 19th South Pacific Nurses Forum, where the NZNO delegation included (left to right) president Grant Brookes, Pacific Nurses Section chair ‘Eseta Finau, kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and kaumātua Keelan Ransfield. 

The relationship that world health and nursing bodies have with the Pacific came under the spotlight at the South Pacific Nurses Forum.

By NZNO president Grant Brookes

Former Cook Islands health secretary Elizabeth Iro received a ceremonial welcome home at the start of the 19th South Pacific Nurses Forum (SPNF), held in the Cook Islands capital, Avarua, in October.

Her 2017 appointment to the re-established role of chief nursing officer at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, followed this year by the selection of Isabelle Skinner, of Australia, to head the International Council of Nurses (ICN), has brought the global institutions into closer contact with Pacific nursing.

The WHO, ICN and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) were all represented at the forum. Debates over their relationship with the Pacific arose from the outset.

These debates took centre stage during the half-day biennial general meeting (BGM) of SPNF member organisations, where NZNO was represented by kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, Pacific Nurses Section chair ‘Eseta Finau and myself. They were also heard in the joint meeting with South Pacific chief nursing and midwifery officers which ended the 19th SPNF.

Nursing Now concerns

Concerns were already growing ahead of the forum over a proposed Pacific launch of the global Nursing Now campaign.Nursing Now is a three-year campaign to raise the status and profile of nursing. Although run in collaboration with ICN and WHO, it is a programme of the Burdett Trust for Nursing in the United Kingdom (UK), based on a report by members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons in London.

Some SPNF delegates felt there had been insufficient information and consultation with member organisations to allow them to endorse Nursing Now.

Others asked where the voices of the indigenous nurses of the Pacific were reflected in the campaign. For these reasons, NZNO decided to abstain from the launch.

The SPNF BGM later resolved to approach the board of Nursing Now to recommend that two indigenous representatives be appointed to the board.

Questions were also raised of the WHO, about why the nursing advisor role in their western Pacific regional office in Suva had been vacant since 2013. The joint meeting with chief nursing and midwifery officers agreed to write to the WHO South Pacific representative, seeking the re-establishment of this position.

The 19th SPNF concluded by expressing a willingness to restart joint work agreed at the previous forum in 2016, on opportunities to align regional regulatory frameworks for nurses and midwives across Pacific nations and on post-graduate education requirements in line with health workforce needs. •

(First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. Reposted with permission). 

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