WHEN Bobbie Cameron joined Tūranga Health she hit the ground running, but not in the direction she thought she would go.
With a solid history in nursing and health management, the new Transformational Lead in the Whare took on responsibility for anything that might touch whānau in their homes, including oversight of Waikohu Medical Centre. However, having started in March 2021, she was immediately thrown into helping organise the Māori health organisation's roll-out of Covid-19 vaccinations.
While the immediate focus was on whānau health and safety, the arrival of the Delta variant of Covid-19 increased the risk, and as the government aimed to see 90 percent of Aotearoa's population fully vaccinated, the workload increased.
Tūranga Health has been a major part of the vaccine drive in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa, from training local vaccinators to holding clinics in halls and marae across rural townships. And its drive-through services have also had a big impact . . . in one week its drivethrough clinic at Harry Barker Reserve vaccinated more than 1200 whānau.
That mahi has been a big contributor to the vaccination rate in te Tairāwhiti which, as at October 18, stood at 55,252 total doses, with 73.9 percent of locals having received at least one dose and nearly 60 percent the two required for full vaccination.
However, the rate is slightly lower for Māori – by October 18 just over 62 percent of whānau had received their first shot while nearly 45 percent were fully vaccinated. Bobbie says that means the work has intensified, and there's lots more to do.
“At the start of the roll-out we were mainly dealing with whānau who were keen to get vaccinated,” she says. “Now we are trying to connect with those who might be sitting on the fence, and that's a bit tougher.”
To reach whānau we're going into workplaces, schools, rural settings, marae... anywhere we can make connections. "We want to see whānau and communities protected. We'll do whatever it takes to reach them."
Back where she belongs
HE Covid-19 vaccine drive has been an important – and complex – process that Tūranga Health's Bobbie Cameron says she feels privileged to be part of.
But she was looking forward to getting stuck into some big pieces of work in other areas she was passionate about . . . great health outcomes for Māori, particularly through providing rural health services. It's a passion that has driven Bobbie for the more than 20 years since she decided to devote herself to working in health.
Though she is of Ngā Ariki Kaiputahi and Te Aitanga-aMāhaki descent, Bobbie – already mum to three young children – was living in Hawke's Bay in 2000 when the then 19-year-old decided to train as a nurse.
By the time she graduated with Bachelors, Postgraduate and Masters degrees, she and her husband had been blessed with three more tamariki, but also suffered losses that only strengthened her resolve to focus on Māori health. “My biggest motivation has always been the pain of seeing whānau in our communities dying before their time,” she says.
“My own father-in-law was only 58 when he died of a massive heart attack, and that was after he had been to tell his doctor that he was suffering from chest pain. “If he had been looked after, rather than just sent home, we could still have him today. So, my focus is on helping prevent those situations from occurring . . . on ensuring our whānau get the care they need and empowering them to self-manage and take control of their health.”
As part of executive management team, a large portion of Bobbie's role is to support the clinicians – the doctors and nurses who work with Tūranga Health – in doing and being the best they can. The Waikohu Medical Centre has been run by Tūranga Health since 2011 and covers the area from the Gisborne side of the Kaitaratahi Bridge, across to the top end of Lavenham Road, and out to Whatatutu, Motu and Matawai.
Not only does this new role bring her closer to her own iwi, Bobbie and whānau were able to find a home near family land at Whatatutu, just down the road from the Waikohu Medical Centre. “This is really the first opportunity I have had to serve my own people and, I have to say, it feels incredible.”
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