The Eketahuna Health Centre’s receptionist and community co-ordinator Everlyne Chase with the committee chairwoman Adrienne Dempsey. PHOTOS/FILE

BECKIE WILSON
beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

The Eketahuna Health Centre is just as unique as the town itself, and on Saturdday it had reason to celebrate.

The rural centre had reached a three-decade milestone of being the first nurse-led clinic in the country.

Over the past 30 years, the clinic has evolved into more than just a centre that offers medical services.

It’s a central hub offering the diverse Eketahuna community support ranging from budgeting services to counselling and Plunket classes.

The centre’s open day on Saturday showcased what the centre offers in forms of demonstrations and stalls.

Health Centre committee chairwoman Adrienne Dempsey had extended the open day invite to simply anyone travelling through the town or wanting a day out.

Dempsey said the small clinic offered “everything you would expect in a big centre, but we are all in one”.

The Eketahuna Health Centre.

The centre operates independently as a charitable trust, with $100,000 annual funding from the Mid Central District Health Board.

However, it relies heavily on additional funding which is sought by a dedicated fundraising co-ordinator.

On April 1, 1988 the Eketahuna Health Centre became the first nurse-led clinic in the country, and became a leader in rural health clinics.

Liz Ramsden was one nurse who helped pioneer the centre when a doctor could not be found to replace the one retiring.

Ramsden had been working at the clinic for two years before the decision was made to become a nurse-led clinic.

She said it was revolutionary at the time and was an exciting adventure.

Alongside nurse Anne Davies and the community, the pair put in a lot of effort to make the clinic a success.

“We did everything we could do to help those that came in the door,” she said.

Ramsden, who lived on a farm near Alfredton at the time, stayed on at the clinic for 16 years.

“I’m really pleased it’s still going, after the effort we all put into it, it was a success.”

Over the three decades, the clinic has been supported by the Tararua Health Group GPs who would visit one day a week.

However, since the end of last year, there has been no GP based in the clinic, forcing patients to travel.

“Of course we need a doctor because they are having to travel about an hour round trip,” Dempsey said.

With an holistic approach to servicing the community, Dempsey also described the centre as having a “personal touch”.

In a unique way of operating, there are no strict time limits for each session, and a health consultation costs just $5.

In the year ending June 2017, about 600 patients were seen, while the clinic has about 1100 registered patients.

It has three registered nurses on board, Lee-Anne Tait, Kendra Crafar, and Trish Wilkinson.

Last year, the centre employed a community co-ordinator, Everlyne Chase, to drive initiatives to improve social, mental and physical health.

Chase said that was what patients liked about the clinic, that it was not just a health centre.

The centre established the town’s Food Bank and the community garden is onsite.

It also hosts weekly yoga sessions, Menz Shed meetings, a monthly morning tea group, regular REAP night school classes including sewing and computer classes, Te Reo Maori classes, and traditional Maori medicine.

In 2017, the centre was the first in the country to open an exercise room.