Long journey to realise village health concept

The faces behind Te Kaika health hub in one of the facility’s new dental clinics, Te Kaika manager Rachel Miller, Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora general manager Shelly Kapua, and Te Kaika executive officer Albert Laurence. Photo: Gregor Richardson
The faces behind Te Kaika health hub in one of the facility’s new dental clinics, Te Kaika manager Rachel Miller, Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora general manager Shelly Kapua, and Te Kaika executive officer Albert Laurence. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Te Kaika, a new health centre in Caversham, intends to be a poster child for the hub model of providing healthcare. Health reporter Mike Houlahan visits the facility, which opens on Wednesday.

Naivete played a major part in the creation of Te Kaika, a new health hub offering a range of services to Maori, Pasifika and low income families in south Dunedin.

It all looked very easy at first, Donna Matahaere-Atariki, part of the partnership driving Te Kaika said: take an old building and turn it into a health centre.

However, issues such as obtaining resource consents and asbestos abatement complicated matters - let alone the complications of getting a diverse range of medical and social services housed in the former College St School.

''We just kept on following that vision,'' Ms Matahaere-Atariki said.

''It's relatively easy to go and set up a GP's business, if you have the money to do it, but it's a lot harder to set up what is intended to be a community of professionals and clinicians utilising their resources in the interests of a community.''

Te Kaika (the Village) is 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.

Administered by Otakou Health Ltd, a registered charity, the Caversham hub has OHL, Te Runanga o Otakou, the University of Otago and Ngai Tahu working together to provide low-cost healthcare and a wide range of ancillary services.

The old school's classroom block has been converted in to waiting rooms, doctor's rooms, a dental clinic with state-of-the-art chairs not in service anywhere else in New Zealand, and the offices of Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora.

Spare land will eventually become the Dunedin offices of Ngai Tahu and the grounds will be landscaped into gardens and picnic areas, as well as a play ground. The school hall has become a gym, and there are plans to knock through into the adjoining buildings to provide physiotherapy services and training rooms.

University of Otago dental, physio, pharmacy and medical students will complete practical training at Te Kaika.

The vision is for Te Kaika to be a one-stop shop: the clinics can attend to any health needs, while being alert for any social service issues Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora can help with.

Similarly, Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora can refer any clients with health issues to the affordable services at the other end of the building.

Proponents say it is a new way of doing things - it certainly looks like the way of the future and has striking similarities to the health hub model being consulted on now by the Southern District Health Board as part of its draft primary and community care strategy.

''What they came up with is pretty much what we came up with a few years ago,'' Ms Matahaere-Atariki said.

Albert Laurence, Te Kaika executive officer, regarded that as a vote of confidence for the model he, the other shareholders and the community created.

''We were very heartened to see that. This is grassroots level stuff. It is was great to see our iwi-driven strategy around primary healthcare was where the DHB is now going.

''To be able to create a hub, you need a lot of start-up capital, and this partnership was about bringing on board everyone who saw that vision and providing that initial cash flow to help it get established.

''The university getting involved was key, as you can see from looking at the facilities - that's not a small investment, and everyone's involvement has allowed us to be stable.''

GP consultation fees at Te Kaika are $18 for adults, and free for under 18s; nurse consultations are $10 or free for under 18s.

Eventually, as more people enrol with Te Kaika and the level of taxpayer funding increases, the hope is that all consultations will be provided on a koha basis.

''The more the community this service is for come here, we will be able to deliver the cheapest and the most responsive and innovative service that they can have,'' Mr Laurence said.

However, all involved with Te Kaika stress that the hub is about more than cheap doctor's visits.

It has been named the village for a reason - the aim is to create a community.

''Some of our community are already very demanding of us, but what they are demanding is their entitlements,'' Ms Matahaere-Atariki said.

''We don't just want people coming here for a service, but because this is a cool place to be.''

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

 

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