September 23, 2008

Problem Now Behind Patients


MODERN medicine has meant everything from heart transplants to powerful new drugs, but one great hurdle has long remained -- hospital gowns that bare all.

The draughty exposure problem -- humiliating for those already at a low point -- has bothered Wellington theatre nurse Jenny Kendall for two years. Now, she says, patients can finally relax.

Her solution, inspired by Pacific Island lavalavas, was a piece of cloth that could be wound around the waist -- under the existing gowns, she said.

"I've been working in theatre for 30-odd years. It's just seeing the discomfort of patients, especially Pacific Island and Maori people."

After she won management approval for her idea, a pilot study began late last year.

The results were overwhelming, with about 90 per cent of patients choosing to use the new garments. Similar numbers supported the idea in a hospital- wide survey, Ms Kendall said.

"It's been all people. For myself, I would like to have something like a bath towel walking through the ward.

"It's about respecting a person's dignity."

The garments were believed to be a first for New Zealand -- and inquiries were already coming in from other hospitals, she said.

Pacific Island and Maori people made up about 20 per cent of Capital and Coast DHB's patients, while people from other cultures that traditionally covered up made up another 5 per cent, she said.

Pacific health unit team leader Ida Faiumu-Isaako said Ms Kendall would always be remembered as the "little Palagi" who solved a big problem.

"It's been quite hard to see our people like that on the slab, on the bed," she said, referring to the revealing gowns.

Some of the cloths feature traditional Pacific floral patterns, but most are in Capital and Coast's green and blue colours.

The garments will be available for all inpatients at Wellington and Kenepuru hospitals.

Race relations commissioner Joris de Bres called the new cloths a "beacon" for workplaces recognising diversity.


(c) 2008 Dominion Post. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.