Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa staff and a couple of volunteers are running a bustling Covid-19 vaccination drive in Kāeo and have already administered 1350 doses in less than two months.
Situated an hour's drive from Kaitāia hospital and Bay of Islands hospital in Kawakawa, and a 90-minute drive from Whangārei hospital, Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa holds the fort down at Kāeo, providing covid-19 vaccination and other nursing facilities in the isolated rural town.
The twice a week vaccine drive takes place in the renovated cosy Waikare Ave, which accommodates two vaccination booths, one recovery booth and heaps of comfort and care.
The whānau-centred vaccination centre, in the heart of Whangaroa rohe, is administering the vaccine to anyone above the age of 16 to complement the vaccination rollout services provided by the Northland District Health Board.
A total of 765 doses were administered as of July 4, reported NDHB, and Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa Nursing Service Lead and clinical manager, Lorna Smeath, said the number has crossed over 1350 since then.
"Of the 1350 doses, at least 450 (one-third) were administered to the Māori population and we hope more people from the community turn up to the vaccination clinic.
"We do our own bookings because a lot of people could get their second dose appointment at the DHB. They are very happy to receive their vaccination here.
"Our clinic is administering the vaccine to anyone over the age of 16. We have people coming in from Kerikeri and Whangārei too, who could not get appointments at other NDHB centres."
Two Rūnanga nurses administered the dose, two drew up the needles, and a couple worked for recovery support. Doris Pilcher looked after the administration of the clinic.
We were averaging about 100 doses a day depending on the availability of the vaccine, said Smeath.
Māori Health provider Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa was coming up to its first anniversary on August 1 and the staff were proud of all that was achieved in one year.
"We have just built up our centres. We are an outreach nursing clinic and provide home visits, mobile nursing, and run the blood/swamp tests in the area. We assess the patients and guide them to a doctor if they need further medical attention. We also work with specialists at the hospital as advocates," said Smeath.
"We are doing our best for the community. We are situated in a place where other medical centres are far away and it takes at least 45 minutes for an ambulance to get here in case of emergency. We provide as much help as we can."
Archie More, 70, had been a part of Rūnanga for many years and said he understood the process that went into the Covid-19 vaccination, which made him more confident about the vaccine administration.
"These people at the clinic encouraged me to get the vaccine and explained the kaupapa of the Rūnanga. I always knew the mahi that they were doing here and when I saw the clinic personally, saw the work that they were doing, it was just absolutely fantastic.
"I was about to go to Broadway Medical Centre, but it just didn't feel right. When I first came in here, I felt more confident getting my vaccine here, knowing the people and their kaupapa here."
Lola Tuckey and her six siblings, all over the age of 70 and 80, were vaccinated at the Rūnanga clinic.
They were all very happy to have received the vaccine from these lovely ladies, said Tuckey.
"When I had my first shot, I was a bit concerned. But these girls are absolutely wonderful. Everyone that walks in the door is treated with love, compassion, and kindness.
"They worked really hard, weeks and months, to get this place up and running.
"We are very privileged in this community to have these girls and the clinic. If it wasn't for this clinic, we would have to travel at least an hour to get the vaccine shot. Particularly for our kaumātua and kuia, knowing who you are dealing with, makes a huge difference.
"Lorna and Doris have been part of our community for a long time and people know them, love them and trust them. You need to be confident to get the vaccination because there is so much misinformation out there and these people give you the assurance that you need."
Judy Donaldson too was amazed by the service at the clinic and said they function like clockwork.
"I just walked through the door, into the vaccination booth, completed the mandatory 20 minutes waiting and was out of the door. It was such a smooth transition and everything flowed beautifully."
Donaldson was initially against the Covid-19 vaccine and said there was so much misinformation circling in the community that she became a victim of it.
"I had peace about it the moment I entered this clinic. Everyone was so helpful and it gave me the confidence to go through with it.
"Rest of the world is having all these problems, and these people in this lovely little town are just doing a fantastic job. They are busy too, but there is no panic. The team provided a sense of reassurance."