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First Staff Move Back Into Buller Health Today

Comment attributed to Phil Wheble, Incident Controller, West Coast DHB Flood event.

Members of West Coast DHB’s WellFood team were the first to move back into the facility today. Buller Health was evacuated early evening on Saturday 17 July as flood waters rose rapidly and were starting to limit access to the facility.

Following a deep clean of the kitchen facility and installation of a replacement fridge and freezer, the team are enjoying being back in their usual workplace and prepping food for patients and Meals on Wheels deliveries. The New Zealand Defence Force helped out by doing the cooking last week, with Red Cross volunteers doing the deliveries.

Most services will move back in tomorrow. This includes:

  • Buller Medical Centre who will be open from 8.30am to 5pm. Initially they will continue to operate as a drop-in centre with no appointments necessary this week
  • Phlebotomy (blood testing) will be up and running from tomorrow, along with;
  • Community mental health
  • Community services
  • District Nursing.

Radiology will be back in business from Wednesday.

Gemma Parsons from the WellFood team, back in business in the Buller Health kitchen where they’ve turned out 55 meals today.

The following services will continue to operate from the temporary facility at Club Buller:

  • The temporary Foote Ward
  • Acute Assessment
  • Maternity
  • West Coast DHB’s Westport Emergency Operations Centre

It’s hoped that they will be able to relocate later this week. Foote ward will need to be clinically cleaned and re-stocked and once we ensure suction and gases have been tested and validated, it will be prepared for patients to move back. In the meantime staff are continuing to care for three inpatients in the temporary ward at Club Buller.

One boiler is running and the second should be up and running this afternoon and currently being tested – importantly there is hot water and heating in Buller Health. The newly-installed pumps in the tunnel are working well. The next job to be completed before other services can move back in tomorrow is replacing and testing data cables to ensure reliable connectivity.

I would like to thank our own team on the ground in Buller, along with a number of skilled contractors who have worked tirelessly to get the building in a safe state for reoccupation, with heating and hot water.

Our largest workforce in Buller is the team of people who provide care in people’s homes. I’m pleased to report that all our client and patients in the community have been contacted and are continuing to receive care. Despite 16 DHB cars being off the road due to flood damage, we’ve sourced replacement rental vehicles to ensure continuous care.

Importantly, emergency services are still working so for any emergency people should still call 111.

Steve Gale, Facilities Maintenance Team Lead with Boiler No.1 up and running. No. 2 Boiler will be fired up for testing this afternoon.

For non-urgent health care, you should call your own general practice team (Coast Medical on 03 789 5000 or Buller Medical Centre on 03 788 9277. After-hours follow the instructions to be transferred to a nurse who can provide free health advice).

I’d also like to give a shout out to the team at Whakarongorau Aotearoa who operate the Healthline 0800 611 116 number and behind the scenes have provided a seamless service to Buller residents needing free health advice. Whakarongorau also provide the nurse triage service after hours and have helped us keep the community informed of all the temporary clinics we’ve been running. Thanks team!

We know that supporting wellbeing, and managing anxiety will be ongoing for a community facing recovery after such a significant event. We are exploring new ways of working to boost access to mental health and wellbeing support services in Westport.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, not sleeping, and feeling anxious all the time please seek help from your own General Practice team or drop into our drop in GP clinic. You can also talk to the team at the Hub, currently located at the NBS Theatre.

Finally, here are some useful numbers for organisations who can help:

If it’s an emergency, please call 111 – emergency services are operating

For health advice at any time

  • Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 – calls are answered 24/7. If you need to be seen, they will tell you what to do and where to go.
  • For wellbeing support you can talk to a counsellor free of charge, call or text 1737 any time of the day or night
  • For pregnancy support and advice over the phone, please call your LMC/midwife.
  • If you have questions about your young child or baby’s health phone Plunketline on 0800 933 922 to speak to a Plunket nurse.
  • You can also visit our HealthInfo website for trusted health advice on a range of issues.
  • Buller Pharmacy in Westport, at 168 Palmerston Street is open for over the counter medications and health advice.
  • Talk confidentially about a meth or P-related issue or problem - 0800 METH HELP 0800 6384 4357
  • The Alcohol Drug Helpline offers support to anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s drug or alcohol use 0800 787 797

You can also call the Buller Support line 0800 768 348 to access help and advice. Call to be connected to welfare advice and support or answers to any questions you may have about the recovery efforts.

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