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Team effort to mitigate risks

TAIRAWHITI public health nurses combined forces with population health staff to form a public health incident management team to focus on the

Covid-19 threat, says clinical nurse manager Sandi French.

“Our main focus was on any Covid-19 cases in our district and contact tracing that needed to be achieved.

“It made sense to mitigate the potential risks of the approaching flu season. Public health nurses supported primary care providers in delivering the flu vaccine to those considered the most vulnerable.

“We then turned our attention to those ‘community facing workers’ who were expected to keep working to have those groups vaccinated.

“Health board staff, patients and staff in aged-care facilities and carers who work with families in their own homes were among those groups who were offered vaccinations.

“We knew that community swabbing would be a possibility.

“Our Public Health nurses worked with our colleagues at the community-based assessment centre (CBAC) at the War Memorial Theatre.

“With their support and the goodwill of our oral health team, building and engineering staff repurposed a school dental truck, and along with our mobile ear clinic truck, made plans to take the clinics out into our communities.”

One team, in one truck, supported Ngati Porou Hauora with swabbing surveillance on the East Coast.

The other truck went to various places around town to provide the same service.

A third team worked with Turanga Health staff to provide swabbing clinics in western rural areas and also held a clinic for Pacific families at the Tongan Church on Abbott Street.

“Hundreds of people across our district came to these community events.

“The success of the clinics was, for the most part, down to support from iwi providers and other community groups who all worked together to bring families to be tested or provided equipment and venues.

“We cannot thank those people enough for the work they have done.

“Surveillance swabbing will continue for some time.

“Childhood immunisations have resumed with our Outreach Immunisation Service getting up and running again.

“Plans are under way to work with school communities to get the school-based immunisation programmes restarted as soon as it is appropriate to do so.”

The Hauora Tairawhiti Well Child Tamariki Ora team at the Tangata Rite building in Peel Street, which is a multi-disciplinary team of administrators, vision and hearing technicians and community support workers, has a range of services available, including;

• Communicable Disease Check

The Well Child team and public health nurses in particular have always had a role to play in communicable disease.

This is usually because of an outbreak situation.

Nurses have to make the switch from school-based work to any public health emergency.

• Gateway Programme

This programme is a collaboration between Oranga Tamariki and health and education staff.

Children and young people coming into state care or families in a family group conference programme can be referred to the Gateway programme.

Tracy Fergus coordinates this service, which includes organising individual reviews from health providers (paediatrician or a Youth Health nurse) and education which, together with an Oranga Tamariki assessment, shape an individual set of recommendations for each child.

• Health Broker

Dallas Haynes has the health broker role within Hauora Tairawhiti.

Dallas facilitates the consented sharing of health information with a variety of agencies such as the Children’s Team who work with vulnerable families in the community.

• B4 School Check

This is a national programme which offers Well Child checks to families of four-year-old children.

“We want to ensure that children are ready to start learning when they get to school.”

This check includes vision and hearing screening, growth and development and speech and language.

Public Health nurses deliver services under several contracts, including immunisations.

“The immunisation coordinator for our district (Janine Brown) sits within our team,” Sandi said.

“She works with all providers of immunisation both in the health board and our community.

“We have an Outreach Immunisation Service which delivers immunisations to children usually in their own homes who, for whatever reason, cannot attend a practice.”

As part of their school work, public health nurses offer school-based immunisations for students in Year 7 (Boostrix-whooping cough, tetanus

and diphtheria) and Year 8 (HPV vaccine).

Public Health nurses support the New Zealand Occupational Health Nurses Association each year to deliver the staff influenza programme.

Community workers: Hauora Tairawhiti clinical nurse manager Sandi French has helped many health staff work together during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture by Paul Rickard