New facility attends to children's complex needs
Dr Russell Wills, Te Rito o Rongokako

“Every door is the right door” is the philosophy behind Te Rito o Rongokako, a health hub for Hawke’s Bay tamariki and rangatahi with complex needs, says Te Whatu Ora – Te Matau a Māui Hawke’s Bay’s community and general paediatrician Russell Wills.

Wills said over the 22 years he has been working in Hawke’s Bay the needs of children and families had changed.

“Many of the tamariki and whānau we care for have complex developmental, disability, mental health, and addiction needs which span across many, or all, of our services,” he said.

“Te Rito o Rongokako offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary service which will enables us to co-locate specialist neurodevelopmental paediatrics with child psychiatry, child development and mental health services.

“(Ideally) the outcome would be the children and families have their needs identified and met, child development is accelerated, disabilities improve, and schools are better equipped to handle them.”

The health hub houses 80 Te Whatu Ora clinical, allied health and administration staff who moved from the Hawke’s Bay hospital to the new building at 208 Avenue Road East, Hastings.

The staff include Ngā Harakeke mai Rongokako – Child, Adolescent and Family Service, Te Kunenga mai Rongokako – Child Development Service, Neurodevelopmental Paediatricians, and others.

Wills said the health hub often gets direct referrals from low-decile schools like Maraenui and Flaxmere, some referrals from GPs in the region, CAFS accepts direct referrals, and referrals are also received from Plunket and Oranga Tamariki.

And while referrals are welcome, because it means people are reaching out and find the service accessible, it also means the health service can become overwhelmed, he said.

“We have to triage and prioritise. We, unfortunately, don’t have the capacity to see everyone who wants to see us.”

Wills hopes the $3.6 million newly kitted and refurbished building offers an attractive space to those wanting to work there and who need the services.

“They will be surrounded by clinicians who can help. We are all here because we want to make a difference and offer care that is effective.”

Located in Hastings city centre, the building is more accessible to whānau as it is close to public transport and has mobility parking right out front.

“It is a light and colourful building with a playground for tamariki and lovely rooms and therapy spaces for our kaimahi. We love it,” Wills said.

Te Rito o Rongokako features dedicated assessment and therapy spaces including: a therapy gym; sensory, mindfulness, art and playrooms; clinic rooms for paediatricians and psychiatrists; a feeding room; and a private whānau room.

The two-storey building is fully accessible, with wide corridors and doors, a ceiling track hoist and accessible bathrooms.

Wills said Te Rito o Rongokako was a “much more welcoming environment”.

“When whānau enter the building, they will see a purukau (story) on a large plaque, which begins with “Hutia te rito o te harakeke”, reminding us that the most important thing in the world is people,” he said.

“While Te Rito o Rongokako is not a kaupapa Māori service, many of our clients are Māori and so our staff are working hard on our te reo Māori and tikanga Māori knowledge.”

He said being physically located in the community gave a clear message these health services were part of the community.

“Our clinicians, consumers and Māori health services helped design the new building and we are very proud of it.”

Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air


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  1. This is a very important subject but I find myself totally confused and struggling to understand the context of the article
    It switches from maori to English making the resulting pigeon English very hard to follow

  2. The move away from the hospital and into the community is very sound. Well done Russell and team.

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