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CE Newlsetter - Interim CE Simon Everitt - 9 May 2020

Whakaari - six months on


9 June 2020

Whakaari - six months on

Piki mai kake mai rā, hōmai te wai ora ki ahau e tū tehu ana.
Koia te moe a te kuia i te pō i raru ai a Wairaka.
Papaki tū ana ngā tai ki te paepae o Aotea,Ka pō, ka ao, ka awatea.
E tangi hotuhotu ana mō rātou i wehe atu rā i te parekura ki te Puia o Whakaari, e aku nui, e kau rahi, e moe mai rā, e moe mai rā.

Today marks six months since the Whakaari eruption.

I’ll be joining the team in Whakatāne in karakia reflecting on that day, those who were critically injured and those who sadly didn’t survive.

In many ways it seems like six months has gone by quite quickly as we’ve had to rapidly adapt to responding to the COVID pandemic. For our Whakatāne team that’s come in the midst of the Whakaari Recovery phase - a phase under normal circumstances focused on support, building resilience and adapting our emergency plans for the next emergency situation. Progressing these things in a pandemic has presented a new layer of complexity.

Recovery from traumatic events is complex and takes a long time. We know from the experiences in Christchurch that recovery will be ongoing and approaching milestone dates like today and at a year, brings increased media coverage. For some this may be re-traumatising. For others seeing survivors, particularly those sharing their recovery journeys, provides a sense of comfort. There really is no ‘right’ response. What we all can do is be kind to each other, look out for one another, and reach out for support at those times if it is needed.

For me today, six months on from Whakaari, is a moment in time to remember and reflect on our people - including the tragic loss of Intensive Care Nurse Sheila Cheng in the days following the eruption - and how they all rallied together across the hospital with support from Tauranga and the Eastern Bay health sector responding to what quickly emerged as a catastrophic situation.

As well as doctors and nurses; occupational therapists, physiotherapists, pharmacists, social workers, podiatrists, radiographers, healthcare assistants, Regional Māori Health, staff from Public Health Toi Te Ora, laboratory, stores, kitchen, admin, orderlies, security, facilities, engineers, cleaners and volunteers - all rallied to support. An early estimate of the number of people who responded put it at around 100.

Through the debrief process we now know there were closer to 200 people in ED, ACU and theatres. When I think about December 9 and the days that followed, what really stands out for me was hearing the stories from staff across the organisation, the sense of calm that was present in such intense circumstances and the team spirit that was apparent as everyone came together to provide care for these critically injured patients. Everyone had a role to play and you all came together beyond the call of duty to provide CARE in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

You are all heroes in my eyes for the way you responded and stood up on that day and for that we acknowledge and thank you.

Manaakitanga is at the essence of our CARE values. This was clearly evident at Whakatāne Hospital on 9 December. 

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