Turanga Health chief executive Reweti Ropiha has thanked the Tairāwhiti community for putting its trust and confidence in local iwi health providers to vaccinate the public during the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Whānau turned up and when they did, they brought their trust and confidence in us to help keep them safe and well. That was a privilege, and here at Turanga Health, we accepted the challenge.”
Mr Ropiha’s comments follow the release of Turanga Health’s annual report for the year ended 2022. It shows Turanga Health staff administered 18,187 vaccinations including boosters and tamariki doses in the 12 months to June 2022.
Mr Ropiha says the arrival of the Covid-19 Delta variant and then the Omicron strain, changed the way health organisations vaccinated almost overnight. In the midst of a nationwide health response, Turanga Health vaccinated the community at rotating rural and urban drive-through locations including schools, carparks, and streets. It was an all-staff approach as clinics relied on set-up and breakdown crews, vaccinators, administration staff, and manaaki support (hospitality) crews.
Despite the urgency, Turanga Health’s drive-through vaccination events always had a relaxed come-as-you-are fun whānau vibe. There was often a DJ on site, hot drinks, cold beverages, and snackpacks available for delivery to each vehicle. Everything was contactless apart from the vaccination itself.
“Sitting behind that fun front-of-house vibe we had to implement complex tech infrastructure that would work in places without electricity and wifi,” says Mr Ropiha. To help prevent spread of the disease in their own workplace Turanga Health staff were divided into two teams, each working seven-day rosters.
Mr Ropiha says the goal was to achieve high vaccination rates across the rohe. He says Turanga Health staff provided straightforward information and weren’t there to judge. “Our local faces in local spaces approach to vaccination meant we succeeded in reaching previously under-served communities and those with vaccine hesitancy concerns.”
In total, Turanga Health created 270 vaccination clinics across 79 community locations including 21 workplaces and 13 schools. In the busy days during the nationwide lockdown of August 2021, staff regularly vaccinated over 200 people at the three-hour vaccination events. On 16 October 2021 staff administered a record 321 vaccines at a Harry Barker Reserve vaccine drive-through event.
Local vaccine figures illustrate the community’s well-placed trust. In July 2021 just 11,230 of the total Tairāwhiti population including 3,799 Māori, had received their first dose. 12 months later by June 2022, 34,339 of the total Tairāwhiti population including 17,073 Māori, had received their first dose.
“We knew where to target, which streets, to set up in, and who we should work with. And in doing so, we earned the public’s trust and confidence.”
Mr Ropiha adds that for much of the past 12 months, staff working at Turanga Health had to balance their vaccination mahi alongside community PCR testing and RAT distribution. Other essential Turanga Health services including nursing, mental health support, and Well Child Tamariki Ora, also continued during this time.
“It has been an unpredictable and incredible past 12 months and so I sincerely acknowledge the achievements of Turanga Health staff, but also those of the Tairāwhiti community and beyond.”
Turanga Health Faces, Spaces, Voices: Annual Report July 2021-June 2022
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