As COVID-19 threatened the rohe this month Tūranga Health staff mobilised a swift and unprecedented campaign to protect whānau from influenza.
“We’ve never done anything like this before or to this scale,” says Tūranga Health manager Dallas Poi, who’s helped oversee the all-of-staff crusade to keep whānau safe from influenza and its complications.
In just one month, Tūranga Health has vaccinated 250 people in their homes and another 300 people in their workplace.
“In a regular year we’d spread the vaccinations out over a two-or-three-month period but with the COVID-19 situation we knew we had to vaccinate as many as we could as soon as we could.”
Ms Poi says it is normal practice for the iwi health provider to vaccinate primary industry workers as part of its workplace wellness Tū Mahi programme offered to local companies.
The workplace vaccinations happened with speed this month at Cedenco Foods, Leaderbrand, Coxco, Riverland Fruit Company, Thompson’s Horticulture, Gisborne Fisheries, and Illawarra Orchard.
“They are often two-day jobs but this month we decided to throw a lot of nurses and kaiāwhina at it in one go and have safely vaccinated dozens of primary industry staff in just a couple of hours at each workplace.”
Individuals who use Tūranga Health services are usually educated about influenza and encouraged to get their jabs with their GP. But not this year.
A fast, home-based roll out of influenza vaccinations, was aimed at keeping the district’s vulnerable and elderly healthy, and as a result, hospital beds free for people with COVID-19. There’s another 150 to go.
“We needed to prevent a bad flu season from stressing out a health system that was preparing to cope with the virus.”
Tūranga Health’s vaccinations of individuals started ahead of lockdown. The organisation’s nurses and kaiāwhina travelled through the city and into rural areas in the crazy days before lockdown encouraging as many over 65-year-olds and people with long term conditions to come to various meeting points with their sleeves rolled up.
Once lockdown was in place two-person teams including a nurse and a kaiāwhina have continued to move around people’s homes offering the vaccination and checking how whānau are.
They do as many of the vaccinations as possible outside of the home and limit their physical contact with the person- apart from the actual moment of vaccination.
Verbal rather than written consent is sought so there’s no sharing of pens and paper. And this year the recommended post-vaccination observation time was dropped from 20 to 10 minutes where appropriate to help speed up the process and reduce participant’s exposure to potential infectious disease.
Registered nurse Kimiora Biddle says it’s an unusual way to deliver health care. It feels a little more rushed than normal but people they visit are grateful to have been vaccinated at all, and in their own homes.
“We are seeing sometimes 20 people a day. We are entering a lot of people’s bubbles but we are all well-trained in the appropriate infection control processes and we are able to keep ourselves and our clients safe.”
Kaiāwhina Rhonda Pohatu says this kind of support work alongside nurses is unusual for her. She’s enjoying the chance to work with whānau and help resolve any anxieties.
She says her own family is very supportive of the work “mum is doing” and know to wait until she has showered and changed before giving her a welcome home hug.
As well as the influenza vaccinations Tūranga Health staff have delivered over 1100 hygiene buckets to families who use Tūranga Health services – with another 400-plus to go, says Ms Poi.
“As well as the delivery of some practical items like wipes, disinfectant, and tissues, it’s a way of catching up with whanau to see if they need any help.”
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