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CE Newsletter - Interim CE Simon Everitt - 24 December 2019

All-one-team in action


All-one-team in action

As time begins to pass from the events of Whakaari – White Island on Monday 9 December, I wanted to use this final newsletter of 2019 to acknowledge once more, all those who performed with such admirable professionalism under the most extreme conditions on that day.

I have heard so many amazing stories about people reacting in incredible ways, truly over and above their call of duty. The response from those at Whakatāne Hospital was extraordinary and exemplary. At one stage it was estimated there were more than 100 people assisting in the trauma response. We had staff from Allied Health, Toi Te Ora, Clinicians from all other Departments, Administration, Security, Pharmacy, Orderlies, General Practice, Iwi providers, Regional Māori Health, Tauranga Hospital staff and many other departments all come together to support the efforts in the Emergency Department and Acute Care Unit. This is truly an extraordinary example of All-one-team.

One of our senior clinicians said that considering the scale and speed of the response which was required it "went like clockwork". He added how he’d never seen such quiet demeanour, clinical speed and excellence displayed in his many years as a health professional.

Our Clinical Leader of Whakatāne Hospital, Dr Heike Hundemer, summed up the scale of what faced those caring for the injured as "beyond comprehension".

"I’ve worked in major centres in Germany as well as New Zealand," said Heike. "I’ve never seen this number of critically injured patients coming into an Emergency Department in a short space of time."

Whakatāne Hospital Coordinator and Duty Nurse Manager, David van Dijk, summed up the feelings of many with his words:

"At the heart of our hospital are our people. They all rose to the needs of our community and worked beyond what anyone would expect of them. The entire hospital was involved in responding to the tragic event that we were faced with……."

"We’re extremely grateful for the support we received from GPs and other health professionals in the community - when they heard what had happened they came to the hospital with their skills and knowledge ready to help wherever they could.

"I also want to acknowledge the support that we’ve received from colleagues in DHBs around the country - your kindness and generosity has meant a lot to us at this time. I couldn’t be more proud of how our hospital and wider community came together to do what we could for those people."

One name from the wider health team that I hear repeatedly is that of St John’s Clinical Lead on the day, Tony Smith. Amongst other things, Tony came in that night and helped facilitate the patient transfers out to hospitals around the country. I know the work he did was appreciated by many and I wanted to acknowledge that.



The solidarity of everyone involved has been one of the features of this tragic event for me, and this has been exemplified in a number of ways. For example, the picture below shows a photograph of White Island, the border of which was signed the day after the event by many of those involved in the response. It’s a powerful image.


In the same week as the Whakaari – White Island eruption the Tauranga Hospital Christmas lunch was held, and a number of signing boards were made available to give people the opportunity to show their collegial support. These were quickly filled with messages of gratitude, respect and admiration for a job well done, as shown over the page.



Debrief and recovery, moving forward

The first stage of the debrief and recovery phase, The Whakaari – White Island Debrief Phase 1, was held last week in the Manuka Room, Whakatāne Hospital.

The room was set up in a way that allowed staff to pop in and out at times that suited them. They could fill out feedback sheets, write reflections down on post-it notes or just sit there and talk and unload about their experiences. We’ve had some rich feedback from people. A "True demonstration of C.A.R.E." was what one person wrote and "All-one-team was surely illustrated in this critical event. Relationships had grown. And respect for staff and community," said another.


The feedback about the Debrief exercise itself has been really useful as well, with many finding it quite cathartic. A full operational debrief will be held at a time yet to be advised and likely in the New Year. It is appreciated that the timeframe for a full operational debrief is longer than it would normally be, as you know the event was an exceptional one with many who have valuable information to contribute to our learning. We are planning to give due time and space for all feedback and potential lessons to be captured. This will help make the debrief process as thorough and useful as possible.

Further to this, we are currently looking at a Wellness and Recovery Plan for the coming months, detailing what we need to have in place in terms of support on an ongoing basis. In planning this we’ve had support from Canterbury DHB, who have sent up some of their specialist psychologists which has been fantastic.

The Exec Team will be considering an implementation strategy around this Recovery Plan early in the New Year. In the meantime you will find all the details of how we’re trying to support people given below.


Christmas message

Finally, as the holiday season approaches, we’re glad that some of you will have an opportunity to rest and grateful for those who will be working through the holiday season. This is a time for families, whānau, friends, togetherness and reflection. I hope people will get the chance to take the time to look after themselves and their families. Thank you for all that you do for the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.


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