Helen Kjestrup in 2011. PHOTO/FILE

BECKIE WILSON
beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

Wairarapa lost a prominent community health leader with the death of Helen Kjestrup at the weekend.

It is understood Kjestrup, 61, died after a fall while in Wellington.

She worked at Masterton Medical Centre for many years, and was an elected member on the Wairarapa, Hutt Valley, and Capital and Coast district health boards.

Those who worked with Kjestrup remember her passion and commitment for the health system, and her friendly nature.

Former Masterton mayor Bob Francis worked alongside Kjestrup on the Wairarapa DHB for many years.

“She was probably one of the most experienced nurses and administrators in the region,” he said.

Francis said Kjestrup’s strong medical background meant that she had a “good feel” for the needs of the wider community.

He death was a “big loss to the region”, he said.

Kjestrup and current DHB member and friend, Fiona Samuel, worked together from their “early days” as primary care nurse leaders, right through to being elected board members, and more recently as clinical auditors.

“I have great respect and admiration for Helen’s outstanding commitment to health which has included nursing leadership, primary care, governance and quality which has undoubtedly been invaluable for our community,” she said.

Masterton Medical Centre general manager Robyn Wilson said Kjestrup’s priority was always the welfare of her staff – many of whom she mentored.

For many years, she was the centre’s clinical services manager.

She would be missed by all those who she maintained strong friendships with even after she left the centre, Wilson said.

Wairarapa DHB chief executive Adri Isbister said the board was privileged to have Kjestrup serve as a board director for many years – she was the “epitome of professionalism around the board table”.

“She was instrumental in many a strategic decision that advanced and influenced the services we provide.”

Along with Kjestrup’s expansive experience, her friendly nature and enthusiasm shone through her work with the DHB, she said.

Kjestrup was working as a lead auditor at TAS Audit and Assurance at the time of her death.

She is survived by her husband, Louis, two sons and a daughter.

Her funeral will be held tomorrow at 2pm at the Wairarapa College Hall.