Te Kaika celebrates its early success

Te Kaika health hub co-founder Albie Laurence uses the facility’s gymnasium alongside Mauri Ora...
Te Kaika health hub co-founder Albie Laurence uses the facility’s gymnasium alongside Mauri Ora kaimahi David Reedy. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A year ago Te Kaika health hub had the waiting room, the consulting rooms, the dental surgeries, and a vision ... but no patients.

Twelve months on, the Caversham-based health provider has proved co-founders Donna Matahaere-Atariki and Albie Laurence right - with more than 7000 registered patients, there was a huge demand for what Te Kaika has to offer.

"I knew that there were a lot of people who wanted something different, but I'm still amazed how many things we have managed to pull together," Mr Laurence said.

"It's not something we have done on our own. It takes a lot of staff, volunteers, and families who want to engage with our services."

In its first year, Te Kaika has expanded far faster than Mr Laurence ever imagined; as well as opening a satellite clinic in Brockville, it has just bought the Forbury Corner Medical Centre and this week has been transferring the records of its 3500 patients to the Te Kaika College St site.

Te Kaika now employs 50 staff, and can call on a dedicated army of volunteers who have planted gardens, painted walls, and assisted in a myriad of other ways.

Its number of patients means it has been able to keep its fees as low as possible, and it recently lowered the price for a visit by someone over 65 with a community services card to $12.

"The practice is heading towards sustainability," Mr Laurence said.

"Our benchmark was 5000 patients ... for us, it is clear that our communities want wrap-around services, and that's the space we are filling at the moment."

Te Kaika began as a partnership between Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu (the South Island Whanau Ora Commissioning agency), Ngai Tahu, the University of Otago, health and social service provider Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora and the Pacific community.

Today it has two shareholders - Ngai Tahu and Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora - and the University has become a service provider.

It now has twice as many consulting rooms, chronic condition consulting rooms, four dental surgeries, a gymnasium offering physiotherapy, a music studio, social service offices, and a pilot scheme in which sees Work and Income staff are on site to deal with benefit and entitlement questions.

Demand is such that Te Kaika had to build a phone room to deal with the level of inquiries, which were overwhelming the hub's initially solitary receptionist.

That steady stream of patients and clients means Te Kaika is living up to its name - the village.

"We believe it takes a village to support the community, so that is what we are trying to build here," Mr Laurence said.

"We are a one stop shop for services."

Te Kaika is about to become a health care home - an integrated general practice - as part of the SDHB/WellSouth primary and community care strategy.

While excited about the change, Mr Laurence said Te Kaika was already ahead of the HCH model and well on the way to its ultimate goal of being a health care hub for its community.

"We are not quite a DHB hub yet - we're not quite sure what that is - but we are providing aspirational services that they wish to see in the community, but as a practice run by a charity," he said.

"But you don't know what will happen - from a community idea, five weeks later we were opening a community in Brockville.

"Where we are heading is having these little spokes in communities which need services."

To mark its first anniversary, Te Kaika is holding an open day today and all its facilities will be open for the public to inspect.

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