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Medical bus proving itself

Tranzit’s Paul Snelgrove [right], and fellow Masterton Rotarians David Baker, Rob Irwin and former Masterton South Rotary president Bob Cameron, present the refurbished bus to the Rarotonga Rotary Club. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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A former Wairarapa bus now operating as a mobile health clinic in Rarotonga is performing well, according to a review by the Cook Islands Ministry of Health.

Six months ago in June, Rotary Rarotonga were presented with the refurbished Tranzit bus by the Masterton South Rotary Club.

The project began in 2017 after Rotarian David Baker, Tranzit’s Paul Snelgrove and retired surgeon and Wairarapa DHB member, Dr Rob Irwin, travelled to Rarotonga to evaluate the country’s clinical needs.

Project manager David Baker said the trio’s partnership made sense and he helped manage the logistics of getting the bus to Rarotonga.

“I thought the medical side, that’s Rob, and anything mechanical, that’s Paul.”

Tranzit sold the bus to Masterton South Rotary at “book value” and Irwin took charge of fitting out the bus with medical equipment, which included a machine for heart monitoring and centrifuge for blood testing.

It cost around $170,000 to modify the bus, with funding from Rotary groups across the lower North Island and Rotary International.

Baker said they were pleased with the report’s findings that the bus was serving its purpose well.

He said officials in the Cook Islands had run with the idea and the mobile clinic had received interest in neighbouring Fiji.

“We popped a seed hoping it would proliferate for people in the future.”

More than 900 people have been seen by the bus over the past six months.

The bus, which was also designed to be used in times of natural disaster or emergency events, has serviced 27 clinics on the island.

Cook Island manager for health promotion Karen Tairea said the response from the public had been positive.

“Te Marae Ora [the Cook Islands Ministry of Health] has used the mobile clinic to meet the needs of the community in many ways.”

Though access was sometimes limited by trees and narrow roads, she said it was well equipped and served health practitioners well.

A regular outreach clinic was held in the Titikaveka area with one doctor and two nurses providing GP services.

The bus had also been used to provide screening and medical services at large public events, sports tournaments, schools, women’s and men’s health clinics, and for blood donor drives.

The next big project would be a blood drive held during the Commonwealth Week celebrations which people from the outermost islands would attend.

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