12 Dec 2018

Rotorua seeing major benefits of new Children's Health Hub

7:49 pm on 12 December 2018

Putting child health services, including mental health, inside a public library in Rotorua has had major spinoffs for both sides.

Rotorua city.

The Rotorua Children's Health Hub moved into the same upgraded premises as the public Library, in a complex known as Te Aka Mauri. Photo: 123rf

Departing Rotorua Lakes District Health Board chief executive, Ron Dunham, told Parliament's health select committee inequity is the biggest issue facing health services.

He said all the "low-hanging fruits" have gone and other approaches are urgently needed.

An example of this was earlier this year when the Children's Health Hub moved into the same upgraded premises as the Rotorua Public Library, in a complex known as Te Aka Mauri.

The hub includes child and adolescent mental health services and Ron Dunham said some worried the new location would be too public for those young people.

"They said it was because people will know there'll be other children around they'll know that this kid has got a mental health problem and it's going to the clinic.

"I said well they won't, they won't even know because they'll come into the library and there's clinics going on everywhere. They will just be one of a number of children attending. Well, they're the biggest fans now" Mr Dunham said.

Services that are part of the hub include B4 school checks (health and development checks for four-year-olds), vision and hearing screening, immunisation, breastfeeding and paediatric out-patient clinics.

Mr Dunham said it has normalised mental health services while also slashing a major bugbear for DHBs - non-attendances at booked clinics.

"The problem we had when we operated out of clinics out of the hospital was that the did-not-attend rates were really high, even for cancer clinics for children. It's virtually zero now because the kids really love coming into the library," he said.

It was also working well for mothers with a disabled child who now have any other children nearby and well occupied.

Mr Dunham added the library has also blossomed since the change. "If we're having a clinic for instance for diabetic children, the library pitch in and get all of the information they have in the library for the parents and family about diabetes, and the siblings go and read books."

That's confirmed by the library director Jane Gilbert, who said they wanted to not just work next to the health hub, but collaborate with it.

"From the very beginning we were determined that this just wouldn't be two separate entities occupying the same building.

"We wanted to have some collaboration between the library and the DHB and so wherever possible we add to what they're doing and they do the same for us," she said.

Mrs Gilbert said it's going well. "People come in here and we don't know what they've come in for but we just buzz them through into the DHB if they've got an appointment. And then they take part in our children's programmes as well, so the families are actually participating in what the library's doing as well as coming for their appointments."

Hub manager Bridget Wilson said it has brought formerly isolated services together, which is good for everyone.

"You might have come for a Bicillin [antibiotic] injection and actually you've shared that life is quite stressful and things aren't going so well socially, to being able to connect with a social worker here immediately, which has been amazing."

Mr Dunham is departing after five decades in health but will help advise the Director-General of Health about recent mental health inquiry findings.

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