District nurses deserve our appreciation


The past few weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for New Zealand, our community, and your hospital.

To lock down or not to lock down – that has been the question.

At time of writing this column, Waitaki and the rest of New Zealand had moved to Alert Level 2, while our poor old Auckland cousins returned to Level 3.

While distance seems to work in our favour these days, it shows the importance of keeping up our guard.

Also, the actions of a few potentially not following guidelines can affect many.

Your hospital remains in good shape and well prepared.

Be patient if you are asked a few more questions when you visit us and if your movement around our hallowed halls is a bit more restricted.

As promised, I want to highlight a critical role in Waitaki District Health Services Limited – that of the district nurse.

The Merriam Webster definition of a district nurse is a “qualified nurse who is employed by a local authority to visit and treat patients in their own homes”.

Here at Oamaru Hospital, we refer to them as the love child of Florence Nightingale and Niki Lauda part Formula One race car driver.

We have just over six district nurses, who visit and care for members of our community in their homes all around the mighty Waitaki. The catchment is one of the largest in New Zealand, covering a land mass of more than 7000m2 – from downtown in the big O to the back and beyond of our high country.

Spending time on the road with some of our more skilled rally-driving district nurses, I can tell you they are literal lifesavers, attending to community members as they recover in their home settings.

District nurses are often the unsung heroes of our health service, keeping people well and out of hospital, as well as offering a friendly ear.

You won’t see them on TV shows like Shortland Street – glam is not for district nurses.

To show you how hard this team works, over the past six months our district nurses have visited more than 5400 patients!

Another awesome service we are fortunate to have in our community, is our radiology team.

Oamaru Hospital radiology provides advanced CT scanning, X-ray and ultrasound to a broad range of patients from maternity through to strokes.

This team works hand in glove with our emergency department, outpatients (such as visiting specialists) and maternity, to name a few, to ensure the people of Oamaru get access to world-class scanning services on our doorstep.

Radiology is the home of eye-wateringly expensive tools. For example, and with the assistance of the Oamaru Licensing Trust (through the Lion Foundation) and the Healthcare Otago Charitable Trust, we have just bought a new ultrasound that is at the cutting edge of anything you will find world-wide. Our sonographers – who make the science and art of ultrasounds come together – are very happy.

Over the past six months, 8525 people had a radiological examination – a CT scan, X-ray or ultrasound.

A reminder, again: keep up the amazing work you have done in improving basic hygiene (hand-washing goes a long way). If you are feeling unwell, contact Healthline for direction and keep up that app use for contact tracing.

Next month: What does a rural doctor really do?

  • Phil Jamieson is the chief executive of Waitaki District Health Services.