Nurses who dropped everything and travelled to Whakatāne to help hospital staff have been thanked for their selflessness and kindness.

Six Australian and one Kiwi nurse travelled to Whakatāne Hospital at short notice and helping out following the Whakaari/White Island eruption on December 9.

The nurses from Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and Southland arrived shortly after Christmas.

They were typically staying for around two weeks and have been working rostered shifts.


Royal Brisbane Hospital clinical nurse consultant Madelaine 'Maddie' Hooper was one of those who volunteered without hesitation when staff were asked if they could help.

"I remember seeing the reports of the White Island eruption on the news," Hooper said.

"I was quite upset to hear about it and so when they asked if anyone would be interested in going to help out I put my hand up straight away.

"I've worked at Christchurch Hospital as well for a couple of years so I had this intense feeling of 'oh no, New Zealand.'"

Her godmother's family was from the Whakatāne area, too.

"Although I'm an Aussie, I do feel a connection to New Zealand."

Hooper found out she had been selected on Christmas Eve and was then put on standby to be ready to leave from December 27 onwards.
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She arrived in Whakatāne on December 30.

She worked in a critical care outreach position in Brisbane - a Masters in Traumatology and has specialised in emergency, intensive and trauma care.


"It's actually been an amazing experience for me and I'm just so happy to have been able to come and help out.

"We've had such a warm welcome and reception from everyone; from the staff here, the people at the accommodation where we're staying, to locals, everyone's been so generous and so grateful that we're here. It's been spectacular really."

The Royal Brisbane Hospital is Queensland's second-biggest hospital, with around 800 beds.

"It's definitely very different to Whakatāne," she said.

Hooper will return to Australia on January 13 and said she has also made plenty of friends whilst in New Zealand.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board interim chief executive Simon Everitt thanked all of the nurses for dropping everything to help.

He said their assistance meant some staff members who had been caught up in the White Island event had been able to get much-needed support over the busy holiday period.

"I want to express our heartfelt gratitude on behalf of the Bay of Plenty DHB and Whakatāne Hospital staff," Everitt said.

"We greatly appreciate our friends from Australia helping us out in a time of need, especially in the face of the emerging situation with the bushfires there.

"That these nurses still wanted to come and help is a testament to them and their goodwill."

The Australian nurses were provided through Australia's National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC).

Everitt said the hospital was approached by the Ministry of Health about what support needs around staffing.

"A lot of people did a lot of work very quickly in order to make it happen," he said.

This included the NCCTRC, the Ministry of Health, the Nursing Council and the Bay of Plenty DHB team.

The fact it all came together so quickly and efficiently was a great reflection of manaakitanga and our own CARE values."

Whakatāne Hospital Coordinator David van Dijk echoed the message of thanks and said the nurses' attitudes "has been phenomenal".

"They have given 100 per cent from the moment they arrived," van Dijk said, and he commended their flexibility, willingness to work and their knowledge and experience which was utilised in the Emergency Department and Acute Care Unit.

"It's been a very positive experience following on from a very sad one of course."