With the resurgence of traditional Māori healing growing, Bay of Islands Hospital now has a dedicated clinic space for traditional rongoā healing.
As part of the DHB funded Rongoā Māori pilot services, the hospital, in Kawakawa, now has a team of rongoā practitioners skilled in the traditional healing and treatment methods.
Following feedback from whānau across Te Tai Tokerau, Northland District Health Board (NDHB) worked with the rongoā community to co-design the delivery of Rongoā Māori as an integral health service.
This resulted in NDHB funding three Rongoā Māori pilot programmes with one clinic in Kaitaia Hospital, Hokianga Health and Bay of Islands Hospital.
Te Roopu Hohou te Rongoā delivers the contract for the Mid-Northern region, providing services from Motatau, Haruru, Ōtangarei, and Kaiwaka.
Northland Tohunga Rongoā and practitioner Tohe Ashby explained that Rongoā Māori specialises in person-specific intervention.
"Just as every person is unique, so too are their health needs. Rongoā is not one size fits all. We always seek to understand what the need is, and from there, we apply the appropriate lens."
Ashby was raised by his grandparents in Motatau. Growing up, his grandmother was the rongoā practitioner for the community, and his job was to pick the plants.
"Rongoā isn't new. It's always been here. I grew up learning that rongoā wasn't just the interventions we use when we're unwell, but the continual practices that keep you well."
Ashby said a lack of connection was a key indicator of poor health.
''Rongoā Māori isn't one or two things like mirimiri or pani but an overall way of life that once was and that we need to normalise again. We have lost our connection to each other, to the whenua, to the moana, and our atua. Wellness is about reconnection, and rongoā is part of that process," he said.
Dr Moana Tane, general manager of Māori Health Te Poutokomanawa, supported the new initiative.
"There was a strong cry for access to Rongoā Māori services from whānau. We listened, and we have been working hard with our rongoā practitioners to establish a funded model of care that is now available to the local community, within their hospital," she said.
The rongoā clinics provide traditional healing services which can be accessed in parallel to western medicine.
Bay of Islands Hospital operations manager Jen Thomas was keen to see rongoā services available in the hospital and jumped at the opportunity to make it happen.
"I was interested as I knew the service was available within other rural hospitals and was aware of the benefits to our patients who already used traditional medicine as part of their journey to wellbeing and wellness. So we set up an initial meeting, and I agreed on the spot after meeting the team.
"Health is not just doctors prescribing medication – it is much more than that. Both services align as they are maintaining wellness and wellbeing," she said.
As part of the service, the practitioners will be available to visit patients in wards.
The services offered in the Bay of Islands Rongoā Clinic include karakia, wairua healing, whitiwhiti kōrero, mirimiri, romiromi, waireka, wairakau and panipani.
The clinic is based in the Community Health Building off Hospital Rd, Kawakawa, every Friday from 9am - 4pm. Appointments are required and can be made through the dedicated Rongoā clinic phone line via call or text - 021 0283 5818.
■ Rongoā Māori is traditional Māori healing, which encompasses herbal remedies, physical therapies and spiritual healing.
It was taught within Māori whānau and hapū through verbal communication and observation alongside a tohunga (an expert with the knowledge).
Rongoā Māori is seen in two main forms – rongoā rākau and Te Oo Mai Reia.
Rongoā rākau (plant remedies) are plant or tree-based medicinal remedies.
Te Oo Mai Reia (spiritual healing) utilises different physical techniques alongside spiritual ones. Te Oo Mei Reia can be seen as Māori healing through prayer, cleansing work and bodywork, known as mirimiri (massage) and kōmiri (deep massage).