Healthcare provider Ngā Kākano Foundation says their work has tripled since the move to Alert Level 2 as they address the backlog built up during lockdown.
With unprecedented demand for flu vaccinations, prescription requests, and regular, accessible health information, the group has recognised they are unlikely to return to a pre-Covid-19 normal.
Ngā Kākano Foundation Group Chief Executive Pia Callaghan says they are seeing several changes in the health needs of their community.
“As more people return to work, school and move more freely outside of their homes, we will likely see an increase in normal flu, colds and other respiratory issues. There is also the ongoing need for Covid-19 assessments and for these to be accessible alongside work commitments, so having assessments localised will be important.
“We have located our mobile Covid-19 and respiratory assessment services closer to vulnerable areas in Te Puke, Maketu and Pukehina, and over the past three weeks provided weekly flu vaccination drive-through for the whole community, not just Ngā Kākano Foundation patients. This will continue through to the end of June.”
This new flexible approach is just the tip of the iceberg for the Foundation, having also broadened the scope of their services to include non-health needs since the lockdown.
Whether providing slippers for Koeke as the weather turned cold, supplying care packages filled with food and health advice for families in need, or offering transport to CBACs for those without a car, the charity has been a beacon of support for those most vulnerable in our community.
Pia says they have been able to keep their finger on the pulse, responding proactively to the different needs of their community, by regularly calling their vulnerable and elderly clients.
“The phone calls have helped to ease anxiety and concerns for many elderly patients who live at home alone, single parents who were afraid to do their shopping, and vulnerable patients with pre-existing conditions such as asthma.
“What we continue to see is many whānau are struggling—the wage subsidy has not covered their living expenses, they have lost work or have reduced, unstable income and they have home environments which impact on their health.
“The challenge but also opportunity for Ngā Kākano is to deliver timely healthcare that responds to the unique needs of our patients, clients and community at this time.”
In the past seven weeks, Ngā Kākano has delivered 1,250 care packages, called 720 patients regularly and developed over 300 Whānau Ora Emergency Response Plans for families across Te Puke and surrounding areas.
Pia says a tremendous collaborative effort has helped them operate on such a large scale.
“We worked collaboratively with Te Arawa Whānau Ora Collective, Search Party Charitable Trust, and Empowerment in pooling our resources. AvaNiu Pasifika worked with us to deliver packages to Pasifika whānau in Katikati and Tauranga, and we were also fortunate to have the support of Tapuika Iwi Authority, Makahae Marae and Moko Marae for use of their kitchen and facilities.”
To help cover their increased administrative and communications costs, Ngā Kākano applied for funding through the Rapid Response Fund.
The fund, established by local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council, provided $22,876 in funding. The funds went towards 32 PPE scrubs, 280 bottles of hand sanitiser for care packages, 100 litres of disinfectant, 2500 pairs of gloves, the establishment of a Zoom room for health consultations, and increased mobile phone charges.
BayTrust Chief Executive Alastair Rhodes says the funding was well-positioned to help Ngā Kākano meet the immediate needs of the community, while also enhancing their service delivery in the future.
“We are so pleased this funding was able to support Ngā Kākano’s work; they have responded quickly to their community’s needs, showing unfaltering compassion in a time of considerable uncertainty and risk.
“It’s also great to see their adaptable approach to the provision of primary health services, offering different options to meet diverse patient and whānau needs. Whether providing Zoom and phone consults, or administering drive-through flu jabs, the face of healthcare will continue to look different going forward—we’re glad our support could help enable that change.”
To learn more about Ngā Kākano Foundation, visit www.ngakakano.org.nz.