AFTER two decades with Tūranga Health, service delivery manager Dwayne ‘Tama’ Tamatea is returning home to Taranaki to take on a key primary care service development job for Pinnacle Midlands Health Network. The culmination of everything he’s achieved at Tūranga Health has prepared him for this senior leadership role and he’s excited about sharing his experiences and learnings with his own iwi, Taranaki. We caught up with Tama while he was chopping wood at Te Kuri a Tuatai Marae and had a chance to look back on his 20-year contribution to Tūranga Health and the rohe.
IN basketball a good point guard is like a conductor in an orchestra, organising and marshalling his team's playing strategy, while encouraging and inspiring his teammates.
That's what Opunake-raised Dwayne “Tama” Tamatea brought to Gisborne when, in 1995, the then-24-year-old relocated to play point guard for the Gisborne Rising Suns.
And that's also what he brings to his role as service delivery manager for Tūranga Health, where he is this year one of four staff members to mark two decades at the Māori primary health provider.
Though formerly experienced in working with youth as programme co-ordinator at New Plymouth YMCA, Tama admits his work life got off to a slow start in Gisborne.
“They told me that, when I got here, I'd have a home and a job but, as it turns out, I had neither,” he laughs. “I ended up living with the whānau of team manager Ricky and Annie Gear – where I stayed for a few years – and doing a bit of relief teaching at Gisborne Boys' High School.”
While he loved working with the students the hours were a bit patchy so when he spotted Tūranga Health chief executive and Rising Suns fan Reweti Ropiha on a rugby sideline, he hit him up.
“There he was wearing shorts and a singlet in the middle of winter, and I just went up and told him I was looking for a job. He said to call in and see him on the Monday and I stayed 20 years!”
Starting as an asthma educator Tama took to the job straight away, loving the people, the work, and the focus on helping others.
He quickly moved up the ladder, working in the population health team before taking on the role of population health co-ordinator and, for the past decade, his current role of service delivery manager.
“As well as working with others to help define our targets, we have to make sure we deliver by supporting staff in meeting our goals, so it is a big responsibility,” he says. “But that's what we're here for and there is always more challenges to meet demand and relationships to build in making sure the work gets done.”
Though no longer living under the shadow of his own maunga, Taranaki, Tama says connections through whānau, basketball and community have helped him see Tūranga as home.
And it doesn't hurt that in his first year of working for Tūranga Health he met his now wife, Lisa Tamatea, and his first two sons from a previous relationship were soon joined by two sporty siblings."
Between work, whānau, studying towards a degree in business and multiple roles in basketball coaching and administration, life has been busy for Tama but he says that, like many, the Covid-19 lockdown gave him time to take stock.
“Obviously we worked right through and it was pretty full-on but without all the basketball roles, there seemed to be many more hours in the day.”
For Tama, having the business nous to help achieve good health outcomes has been key and he says a Pinnacle Midlands Health Network working trip to the USA was a huge eye-opener and was privilege and an honour to represent Tūranga Health.
“They took us to the Boeing factory to see a 777 being assembled, which showed how lean management can make for an amazing result,” he says. “There were thousands of workers but everyone knew what they were doing, everything was spotlessly clean, and every tiny piece of equipment was in its place.
“A trip to Microsoft to see new technology was also amazing and, overall, attending an international population health conference was truly a great experience.”
Closer to home, highlights have included the success of the whānau days Tū Marae duathlon event; running a rheumatic fever testing programme that revealed startling results; promoting home insulation, physical activity in kura, and heritage trails; and bringing the Breakers basketball team to town to inspire rangatahi.
“What is unique about Tūranga Health is that we have the freedom to try things. Of course, we drill down, do the research to make sure we are on the right track. But sometimes you just don't know how effective a strategy will be until you give it a go.”
Tama is also enormously grateful to his work colleagues. “They have put a lot of trust in me and played an important part in achieving all that we have.”
Tama says having the trust of his employer and freedom in decision-making have been the strongest drivers of his team’s success.
“Like in a coach/assistant coach situation, Reweti and I work well together and are always clear on our roles and responsibilities. He’ll be one of the people I will miss the most when I return to Taranaki and I can’t thank him enough for the support and space he has afforded me to develop my career.”
Reweti says Tama is a loss to the district. His rapport with people has seen him grow into more senior roles taking on large health projects that make a difference to hundreds.
“This has never been a Monday to Friday job for Tama and I think that came to the fore during the Covid lockdowns when he played a strong leadership and logistics role.”
Reweti says Tama’s work ethic has always been driven by doing what is right for the community. Thousands of children will have benefitted from his stewardship, mentoring and coaching over the years, particularly in basketball.
“There are three words that sum up Tama, and that’s passionate, committed, and loyal. Just this weekend for example he wasn’t supposed to be working but there he was helping cut up and deliver wood for whānau.”
“We often say that if you are an “I”, “me”, “mine” sort of person, then Tūranga Health is not the place for you. The language we want to hear is “we”, “us”, “ours” because, if we're not working as a team, then we are not going to get very far. Tama epitomises that in every way.”
“On behalf of Tūranga Health we thank him for his work and wish him all the best in Taranaki.”
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