Population issues raised at health forum

Cambridge Community House manager Harriet Dixon (right), with other leaders of last week’s community health forum. They are, from left, Greg Morton, Norma Taute, Dame Karen Poutasi and Emeritus Professor Margaret Wilson.

The Waikato DHB has praised local communities for moves to take ownership of their own health, and has pledged to support such initiatives, but is concerned about issues relating to population growth and Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy.

These were among views expressed by Waikato DHB commissioner and deputy commissioner respectively, Dame Karen Poutasi and Emeritus Professor Margaret Wilson, at last week’s community health forum at Cambridge Community House in Leamington.

Attending were DHB representatives as well as those from regional health providers, Waipā District Council, Cambridge Community Board, community and church groups and Maungatautari Marae.

The meeting was led by Greg Morton, Waikato DHB senior planning and engagement manager, and chaired by Cambridge Community Board House manager Harriet Dixon, who said: “Our town is exploding in population and in need at the moment”.

It was the latest in a cycle of DHB community engagement meetings aimed at hearing feedback from stakeholders across the region.

The thumbs up was given by DHB representatives to several initiatives. One was a recent hauora – a gathering of health providers related to Māori philosophy of health and well-being – held in February at the old Maungatautari school site, and to efforts on the Maungatautari Marae to bring health providers together.

Also praised were the Men’s Health Events held in Cambridge in 2016 and 2018 by Baptist Church members Delia Edmeades and Helen Vaughan, both of whom attended last week’s forum.

Concerns were expressed about slippages in mental health services, the complaints procedure around Waikato Hospital appointments, and the triage system at Waikato Hospital’s Emergency Department. DHB representatives said a new complaints system now in place means complaints area dealt with more efficiently, and the floor heard of a voucher system at the hospital’s emergency department where patients are either admitted to the hospital or directed to Anglesea Medical Centre’s emergency department.

Another issue raised was that of the lack of 24-hour triage coverage locally.  Cambridge Medical Centre business manager Wendy Harris said there was a triage system available during working hours, and discussions are underway on how to extend that to a 24/7 operation.
DHB senior planning and engagement manager Norma Taute said it was increasingly challenging for over-stretched medical practitioners to meet the need of a growing population, and that it was essential to find new ways to provide access to services.

DMB commissioner Karen Poutasi described it as ‘energising’ to see the opportunities being taken by communities to look after their health. “I will take the information presented here back to the DHB… we are ready and willing to come in behind you.”

She urged people to get the Covid-19 vaccine, and said latest scientific evidence showed that not only did the vaccination prevent infection to the vaccinated person, but it also protected the wider community against the spread of Covid-19.

Her call was echoed by deputy commissioner Margaret Wilson, who said the DHB was concerned about vaccine hesitancy. She urged those with concerns to make contact with the DHB and said that 100 percent vaccination coverage was the ultimate goal to ensure safety for all.

She said population growth, housing issues and difficulty in accessing services were matters of concern in Waikato.

Cambridge Community House manager Harriet Dixon said the forum was a great opportunity to get on the DHB’s radar.

“Often Cambridge is treated as a suburb of Hamilton … our community is expected to travel to Hamilton to use services. For many, this is a barrier to receiving health and support,” she said.

“These forums help identify local needs and opportunities to bring these services to Cambridge. An example of this is the DHB’s Adult Mental Health Services, which are now working three days out of Cambridge Community House.”

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