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Connecting Matakana locals with health services

A hui has taken place on Matakana Island for people to share healthcare experiences on the island. Photo/Supplied.

A recent community co-design hui on Matakana Island marked a new milestone in the journey to better connect island residents with health services using technology.

The hui, led by staff from the Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation with support from the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and Ministry of Health, was organised for Māori whānau and Te Awanui Hauora Trust to share their healthcare experiences on the island, specifically relating to accessing services.

The installation of a radio mast and 4G network technology on Matakana Island has created opportunities to deliver telehealth services to residents. Information collated by the group at the workshop will be used to inform the next steps in the rollout plan.

PHO Director of Māori Health, Kiri Peita, says the hui generated valuable feedback from residents and reinforced how technology has the potential to be a game changer for people living in remote communities.

“Residents are excited about the opportunity to improve their access to healthcare. Living on an island presents multiple challenges to accessing healthcare, including transport, cost and time.

“The rollout of a telehealth service, in consultation with these communities, is an important step towards improving equity of health outcomes for Māori.”

Having access to high-speed broadband on the island means that for the first time, residents will be able to have high resolution video consults with GPs, nurses and hospital outpatient appointments.

The services will complement the fortnightly GP clinic provided by Ngati Kahu Hauora.

Te Awanui Hauora Trust COO Te Uta Roretana says residents currently pay up to $80 for a return barge trip to take them into town for specialist appointments so the ability to have digital consultations will be a great help.

Covid-19 had underlined for everyone the important role that technology plays in reducing barriers to a range of services and keeping people connected, she adds.

“The safety and wellbeing of our whānau is all important for us. Telehealth services mean that when we can’t be connected physically, we can still be connected digitally, and not just in health. The connectivity means we can explore more online learning opportunities too.”

The journey to improve access to health services on Matakana Island started in February 2020 during a community hui when residents first shared their healthcare experiences with the PHO.

Since then, the PHO, DHB and Western Bay of Plenty District Council joined forces to provide the 8m high radio mast which was installed next to the Hauroa clinic in April, as well as 4G network technology, diagnostic equipment and technical expertise. The radio technology used is the same type used in outback Australia.

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