Nurse deregistered after Facebook posts criticising Māori

Author
Amy Wiggins, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 22 Oct 2020, 3:28PM
A nurse has been deregistered for making racist social media posts about Māori. (Photo / Getty)
A nurse has been deregistered for making racist social media posts about Māori. (Photo / Getty)

Nurse deregistered after Facebook posts criticising Māori

Author
Amy Wiggins, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 22 Oct 2020, 3:28PM

A Taranaki nurse has been deregistered after calling Māori "lazy", "cunning" and "underhanded" in posts on social media.

It was not the first or last time Deborah Kathryn Hugill made similar comments on social media, according to the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal which heard her case in July and today released its decision.

Hugill made the posts for which she was deregistered on the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Facebook page in May 2019 in response to a link to a news article about Māori voices "missing" from a mental health and addictions inquiry.

When other nurses took offence to the posts she engaged in an online argument with them saying it was not racist because it was based on her experience.

In her posts, she also claimed Māori got more handouts, Maori nurses were not punished for criminal activities and stole from patients.

When her practising certificate was suspended pending the hearing, she failed to tell her employer and worked another 13 shifts, the Tribunal found.

It also found she had been before the Nursing Council in 2018 after making similar comments about Māori on her Facebook page. She subsequently failed to complete the cultural competence training required of her.

In October 2019 she again made racist comments despite having had her license suspended for her remarks earlier in the year.

At the hearing, Hugill admitted that she posted the comments and that they were inappropriate.

She sought to explain and justify her actions saying the article was thought-provoking and raised memories for her. She said the comments she posted were "true" as they were taken from her own experiences and things she had witnessed during her career as a registered nurse.

Hugill told the tribunal her comments were impulsive and knee jerk and denied being racist or making racist comments.

However, under cross examination, she accepted the racist nature of her words; "Maori predominantly get more hand outs and freebies in Nursing Education" and "Maori nurses sit on their fat arses, eat and have meetings all day" were "awful and atrocious". She accepted they condemned an indigenous group as a whole.

Hugill told the Tribunal she regretted making the comments on Facebook on
in May 2019 and was truly sorry for the harm caused.

She denied making any other offensive comments towards Māori on her own Facebook saying the 2018 comments were the result of her being hacked.

She also defended her October comments, saying they were not racist because they were true and based on her own experiences.

The Tribunal ruled Hugill's comments were "highly offensive and inappropriate".

"Her post makes racist generalisations about Māori nurses and offensive and derogatory generalisations about other nurses and the two key nursing organisations that represent nurses. Her attempt to justify her comments as being based on 'her experience' cannot excuse racist generalisations."

It also pointed out the fact she had named workplaces, departments and one manager by name made her conduct even more serious.

The Tribunal concluded the Facebook posts were "highly offensive and damaged the mana of Māori nurses and patients in Taranaki".

The repeated behaviour showed "limited insight" and made her conduct more serious, it said.

It also ruled Hugill's decision to keep working after she was suspended amounted to malpractice.

The Tribunal censured Hugill and cancelled her registration with the condition she may not reapply for it for two years.

If she did reapply, she had to undertake study relating to cultural competence and the Nursing Council code of conduct and ethics. She would also need to be supervised for a year.

She was also required to pay more than $8000 in costs.