Thursday, 26 November 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Full circle in more than one way

When Janine Thompson joins her daughter, Tayla, at the new mobile health clinic - a campervan - of Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki later this month, things would have come full circle in more than one way.

Te Korowai is an iwi-based, not-for-profit organisation providing primary healthcare services across the Hauraki rohe (the Coromandel Peninsula and Hauraki Plains). In addition to the mobile clinic, the organisation has offices in Whitianga, Thames, Coromandel Town, Paeroa and Te Aroha, and employs more than 250 people. Among the services the organisation offers are GP and nursing services, home assist services (in-home help, personal care, medication oversight, shopping assistance, and short and long-term after illness surgery or accident), palliative care, tamariki ora (well child services), mental health services, and disability information and advisory services.

The motto of Te Korowai is “Mō tatou o Hauraki - For all the people of Hauraki.”

Janine and Tayla are both registered nurses. For Janine it all started 21 years ago when she resigned from a position at the Department of Corrections in the Waikato to move with her family to Whitianga. Tayla was six at the time.

“Not long after our arrival in Whitianga, a kaiāwhina (community health worker) position became available at Te Korowai, which I successfully applied for,” says Janine. “With my corrections background, I was acutely aware of the support people and families need when time are tough. The position suited me perfectly.

“Some time into the job, I developed a genuine desire to learn more and to be able to do more, and I embarked on a nursing degree. At the time I obtained my qualification, Te Korowai didn’t have any nursing vacancies and I joined Mercury Bay Medical Centre - the White House - in Whitianga. I spent 11 amazing years at the centre and learned a huge amount from the doctors and other nurses. During my time there, Tayla has also qualified as a nurse and secured a job at the White House. We worked together for three years, which was a wonderful highlight for both of us.”

Tayla finished her school career at Mercury Bay Area School in 2011, where she was deputy head girl. After working at several Whitianga businesses for a few years, figuring out what career she would like to follow, she decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

“Somehow I sort of always knew I would also become a nurse, I just needed time to get my head around it,” says Tayla. “I studied at Wintec in Hamilton and one thing I never had any doubt about was that I wanted to come home, to work among the people of Mercury Bay. I was over the moon when Mercury Bay Medical Centre offered me a position as a newly qualified nurse. Working with my mum for three years was an absolute privilege.

“I remember during one of my first days at the centre, one of the other nurses told me that she started out working with her mother and how much she learned from her mother during the early years of her career. That was the exact same with me. There simply is no substitute for experience and the wisdom experience brings, and being your own mother, she could say things to you in a way no one else could. It’s kind of you don’t have a choice, if mum talks, you just have to listen.

“And, of course, my mum is an exceptional nurse. She was, and still is, a wonderful role model.”

Tayla joined Te Korowai 12 months ago when a Whitianga-based nursing position became available.

“Te Korowai is very much focused on making health services available to everyone,” says Tayla. “I developed this deep desire to work among the most vulnerable in our communities and can honestly say I now have the best of both worlds, and with our new mobile clinic and the prospect of working with my mum again, things are just getting better. It’s like I found the holy grail of my profession.”

The Te Korowai mobile clinic started visiting communities around the Hauraki rohe two weeks ago. “The COVID-19 lockdown showed to us that some people, especially in the remote areas of the Coromandel, have to conquer major barriers to access basic health services,” says Tayla. “It was almost a no-brainer for us to get the campervan up and going. It’s also taking us back to our roots. Te Korowai started out as a mobile service in the middle 1990s and the campervan the organisation used at that time was a familiar sight among many communities.”

The new mobile clinic offers general health assessments, screening services for a variety of conditions (including COVID-19 tests), free flu vaccinations, health information and assistance with navigating the New Zealand health system.

“We’re available for everyone,” says Tayla. “We’re even happy to take the campervan to people’s homes if there are no other options available. People don’t need to have an existing relationship with Te Korowai to make use of what our mobile clinic has to offer, we’re happy to work with their existing GP whenever that’s required.

“We really want no one to worry about their health or the health of a loved one because they can’t or don’t know how to access the health support they need. People can phone us on 0508 35 676 if they want us to come to them or their community, or they can check out where we plan to visit on the Te Korowai Facebook page. No appointments are necessary. People can just walk up to our campervan and we’ll be happy to help them.”

Janine says she’s looking forward to becoming part of the Te Korowai team again. “Make no mistake, I was very happy at the White House and will miss all the friends I made massively, but helping Te Korowai going back to their roots, and in the process going back to my roots as a health care professional, all while having another opportunity to work alongside my daughter is quite special. If you want to talk about things coming full circle, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Pictured: Mother and daughter nursing team, Janine (left) and Tayla Thompson, at the new Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki campervan health clinic.

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