Caversham health hub for city’s vulnerable

Te Kaika  health hub organisers (from left) Otakou Runanga chairwoman Donna Matahaere-Atariki,...
Te Kaika health hub organisers (from left) Otakou Runanga chairwoman Donna Matahaere-Atariki, Prof Peter Crampton, of the University of Otago, Shelley Kapua, of Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora, Rachel Miller, of Otakou Health Ltd, and Te Kaika founder Albert Laurence, of Otakou Health Ltd, at the former College St School in Caversham, the site of the new hub. Photo by Linda Robertson.
A multimillion-dollar health hub based in Caversham will provide healthcare for some of  the city’s most vulnerable residents, the project’s founder says.

The  healthcare hub, to be based in the former College St School buildings, will offer free and heavily discounted GP, dental, social work, physio and rehabilitative gym services to anyone who needs them.

At present the buildings are owned by the Ministry of Education, but the new owner would be charitable trust Otakou Health Ltd.

Project founder Albert Laurence, the former manager of Pacific Trust Otago, a Pacific social agency, said  Dunedin was the only city in New Zealand that did not have a low-cost health hub.

Such a facility was "very important" because in his former role he saw many families in Dunedin who could not afford primary  healthcare, he said.

It was expected 15  jobs would be created as a result of the hub. Caversham Maori health, education and social services provider Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora, with a staff of about 10, would also be based  at  the hub site.

Within five years it was expected the hub would employ 50 staff, Mr Laurence said.

The hub would be called Te Kaika ("The Village")  to reflect the holistic treatment it would offer. 

While the facility was primarily designed to meet the needs of Maori, Pasifika and low-income families, support would be offered to anyone who needed it.

"They will then be able to access the free/low-cost medical, dental, physio and social support provided by all partners on site."

Plans for the facility had been under way for three years and a resource consent application  would be filed with the Dunedin City Council on Monday.

Donna Matahaere-Atariki, the Otakou Runanga representative on Otakou Health Ltd, said the hub was a collaboration between Te Runanga o Otakou, the University of Otago, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu and Otakou Health Ltd.

"We don’t believe that access for vulnerable groups, including the elderly, has improved, and we don’t believe that it is just the role of the Government to do that."

The hub would be partially funded by the Government’s Whanau Ora commission, and other funding would be provided by Ngai Tahu and the University of Otago.

Funding was not profit-based, and any revenue would be used to ensure costs remained low or nonexistent for patients,  Ms Matahaere-Atariki said.

While she hoped Te Kaika would be operational by December,  it would "definitely" be open by May 2017.

University of Otago pro-vice-chancellor of health sciences Prof Peter Crampton said dental, physio, pharmacy and medical students would complete practical training at Te Kaika.

"There are huge opportunities for teaching and learning for students."

Otago Polytechnic CEO Phil Kerr was also in discussion about the possibility of polytechnic health students training there too, Prof Crampton said.

Dunedin Mitre 10 Mega would complete the refurbishment and refit of the school buildings as its annual community project.

The exact cost of the hub could not be disclosed because of commercial sensitivity, Prof Crampton said.

The Caversham Medical Centre  is  not involved with the new facility.

A spokeswoman for the  centre declined to comment on it.


Healthcare hub

• 15 new jobs on opening.

• 50 staff within five years of opening.

• 6000 patients a year within five years.

• Will be open by May 2017.

• Heavily discounted and free healthcare for people in need.

• Planned for three years.

• Funded by Whanau Ora, Ngai Tahu and the University of Otago.

• Doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, social workers.

• Focus on holistic healthcare.

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