3 March 2022
Taihape Health general practice has been operating out of its current premises for 10 years and since COVID-19, it has become apparent that this facility, owned by the Otaihape Community Trust, is limited in terms of space and ability to accommodate all the services.
The old hospital building, located on the grounds below the practice, is a larger space and to date has been partially utilised for health services. So last year, the option to refurbish this facility and make full use of it was put forward to the Whanganui District Health Board by Whanganui Regional Health Network, Taihape Health Ltd Directors and Mōkai Pātea Services.
Progress has since been made with the rural health centre development, despite there being no obvious visual changes just yet. Whanganui Regional Health Network, Taihape Health, Mōkai Pātea, Otaihape Trust and Rangitikei Council representative have been working together to move this vision into a reality. Architect, Duncan Sinclair from Blackpine, has been working with the various groups to understand the space required for services, community and business activity.
“An engineer has been commissioned to survey the campus to understand what modifications could support the access and layout, and if possible, utilise the ‘footprint’ of the campus surrounding the rural health centre better,” says Whanganui Regional Health Network CE, Jude MacDonald.
The old hospital building will be getting a new lease of life, with the first draft from the architect focusing on zoned areas, so we can be sure that there is dedicated and logically designed space to serve the various needs. The zoned campus drawing was endorsed in principle by the Integrated Development Group at their February meeting. The design will keep to the current structure of the building as much as possible, while creating spaces that the community and stakeholders have identified as important, along with considering how to link spaces that are currently isolated.
The Integrated Development Group heard a strong voice from various invited community members and Kaumātua at a hui before Christmas. Jude MacDonald and Tracey Hiroa, Mōkai Pātea General Manager, heard of the emotional attachment people have to the facility and the difference it will make having access to spaces in the facility that are ‘theirs’ to use, without disturbing the health and social service providers or impact on the privacy of clients accessing services at the centre.
The first draft of the design discussions highlighted the need for under-cover parking, where COVID and other transmissible illness assessment and treatment can take place. “The preference is to have this area with its own access, away from any public entry,” says Taihape Health Practice Manager, Gemma Kennedy. “We are also discussing a linking corridor between the wing that is under-utilised and the main area of the building. A specific area for maternity and x-ray remains a priority, however, they may be ‘rejigged’, dependent on whether the barium walls needed for the radiology service plant and equipment are still in situ.”
An architect will be viewing the building the general practice is currently operating from, to identify if it has potential for a redesign into residential apartments once it’s been vacated by the practice.
“Our preference at the moment is to wait and see who is accommodated within the redesigned rural health centre, and possibly consider accommodating the overflow,” says Otaihape Health Trust Chair, Marian Clever, “and before anything is progressed, a community survey will need to identify the level of interest; to access some population projection data and gauge a level of commitment from the community to run the service.”
“A Housing Steering Group has emerged, with shared membership in a Community Development Trust, ensuring connected planning and discussion,” says Environmental Manager at Rangitikei Council, Jaime Reibel. This links in well with Rangitikei District Council, who are leading a housing workshop in March.
For further comment please contact WRHN Communications & Technology Coordinator, Karen Veldhoen on (06) 348 0109 extn 708