Health heroes show the way

Some of the Te Kaika team show their appreciation for the community after a busy year of...
Some of the Te Kaika team show their appreciation for the community after a busy year of delivering vaccines. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
If anyone knows the value of rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in, it is the team at Te Kaika.

Staff at the Ngai Tahu-owned Dunedin health centre have been major drivers of the Covid-19 vaccination effort this year, organising clinics for Maori and Pasifika and also running mass vaccination clinics at the Edgar Centre and Forsyth Barr Stadium.

They have delivered close to 100,000 vaccines across the South, and have helped drive the region to one of the highest vaccination rates for Maori in New Zealand.

After all of that, it might be tempting to put their feet up for a bit.

But 2022 is looking like an even bigger year for the service.

Opened in 2018 on the site of the former College Street School in Caversham, Te Kaika will run a new large community wellness hub built on the campus.

The hub is a joint venture between Te Kaika, the Ministry of Social Development and the Southern District Health Board.

Chief executive Albie Laurence said they would likely break ground in January, with work set to start in earnest in April.

"We’re not going to wait for the building to get done to start working in that way," he said.

They would start working in a more integrated way with other organisations in the new year, he said.

Much of Te Kaika’s success this year appeared to have come down to its community-focused approach.

"We always knew it was going to be a big issue for the communities we serve, all the data suggested that Maori, Pasifika and low income would fare the worst with Covid," Mr Laurence said.

"We just had to think outside the box. There was going to be a big need, but we couldn’t wait for government."

That meant just getting stuck in and getting things done, rather than wading through rivers of red tape.

They set up the first Edgar Centre drive-through clinic in the space of 24 hours, hiring 70 community workers to assist.

Fifty of those staff had been unemployed beforehand.

It proved extremely popular, vaccinating close to 1500 people on the first day.

The community-minded nature of the organisation was also proving helpful in reaching those who were vaccine-hesitant, or distrustful of the authorities.

Te Kaika chairwoman Donna Matahaere-Atariki said having people they knew, and trusted, could make all the difference.

With major changes to the health system expected next year, she hoped more of the system could use the success of organisations like Te Kaika to change the way they worked, to achieve better outcomes for communities.

After a short break over Christmas for many staff who have been working almost non-stop through the pandemic, vaccinations will kick into high gear again with the roll-out of jabs for 5-year-olds to 11-year-olds, and the continuation of the booster programme.




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