Russell identity Patu (Patricia) Sigley has been named by the Ministry of Health as the Health Volunteer of the Year, in recognition of her outstanding achievements within the community.
She was nominated by Haratu Kororāreka Marae for her work over more than 50 years, often in small and sometimes isolated communities.
The career nurse has spent a large part of her so-called non-working life busy as a volunteer, helping set up hauora clinics, volunteering for the rural ambulance service for 20 years, assisting people into pensioner housing or community living. She also helped with the distribution of food parcels during the Covid-19 lockdown, and made sure the community was aware of testing and how to access it.
Her nursing career got off to a shaky start, however. She trained in Hamilton for two years before returning home to be with her mother and seven siblings when her father died. She worked at Kawakawa's Bay of Islands Hospital, completed her training as a Registered Nurse Aid, then became an enrolled nurse in 1966, completing her nursing registration from Palmerston North.
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She understood the need for Māori health workers to visit their own people, and noted the difference it made to have a Māori nurse explain procedures and listen to concerns. And as a diabetes nurse, she was shocked to find that so many people had "no idea" about the disease.
Sometimes her dedication came at the expense of her family. Her son recalled peanut and raisin sandwiches she'd make for them when she had to leave home early, and on one occasion she got lost in the Waikare bush when she was trying to find the home of a patient.
Patu worked in partnership with Ngāti Hine Health, and for the Northern Region Correction Facility (Ngāwhā prison), which she said allowed her to meet people of many different ethnicities and to understand their religious beliefs and health viewpoints.
She later became a relief nurse at the Russell Medical Centre, the final role in career, and now devotes time to marae clinics, in conjunction with Ngāti Hine Health. She is a strong advocate for natural medicine, and produces her own remedies made from native plants.
Former Prime Minister and Russell resident Dame Jenny Shipley presented the certificates to her on behalf of the Minister of Health.