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The poor accessibility and availability of primary health care services, accessed mainly through Taumarunui, was the most significant health-related concern for residents of Ohura:

"You can’t get an appointment at the doctor."

Residents of Ohura mainly accessed general practice services in Taumarunui, although due to perceived service unavailability some accessed their care in other towns such as New Plymouth where they felt they did not have to wait as long for appointments. Wait time accessing GPs was the biggest concern,

"It’s just impossible to get (an appointment) here. I’ll be dead by the time I get in there."
"They’ve got that doctor, Lance O’Sullivan will do telephone calls for rural people so you can talk to a doctor."

Notwithstanding these concerns, one participant spoke of having no problem with wait times, and described being able to access care during weekends, and recounted being referred to and treated promptly and satisfactory in secondary care as well.

Participants felt that the most prevalent health conditions in the community were those associated with old age because the community was aging, for example, cardiovascular disease and respiratory problems. These problems were exacerbated by poor housing quality and living in damp, cold houses:

"It’s incredibly unhealthy. They don’t have enough money to buy firewood, they don’t want to turn the heaters on. They’ve got skin conditions, fungus conditions and it’s from mould. Not from viruses being passed around. "

Whilst some noted that babies were also vulnerable to these living conditions, the key concern for the children of the area was in relation to pollen coming from pine plantations. Pollen was considered to be a health hazard for residents, who were concerned about clouds of pollen which blew over the town:

"One thing that pisses me off about the forestry is that they do not take into consideration the amount of pollen that comes off those pine trees. Is it Kaitieke? There’s been a study done and every child that went to Kaitieke has got respiratory problems now. Hay fever, asthma. This block that has just been planted out in pines surrounds a community with no thought at all to our little rural schools and the kids that are getting covered in pollen."
"We get it here. We watch… it’s like a…. cloud coming over and the cars are all yellow. "

Mental health problems within the community were of also concern, as was service availability and accessibility:

"I would say it’s mainly mental health. As much as the adults, it’s sometimes the kids too."
"Counselling, drug rehabilitation, depression… all the big hotspots. There’s just no one. You can access services if you’re part of the fire department, but then it’s a Zoom meeting and you’ll never actually get to see a physical person. If you’re not with a group that can facilitate access, then I think the government will give you three sessions. But even then you’re on a wait list. There’s just no funding for it and then you have to pay yourself. And there’s only one group in town that does mental health counselling."
"There is a rehabilitation centre in town… with a psychologist and meeting rooms which people are told to go to by the law, by the courts. It’s in a building, I’ve seen it. So that’s there, but getting someone to go along and get help, that’s the hard thing. There’s people here that deny their mental conditions. They think they’re OK because they are in their world, but from outside looking in you notice. And the question is, we don’t have any support for those people out here, so when those people get sick they get really sick. They stay in bed and you don’t see them. They don’t have support."
"Children, for their mental health, there are social workers in schools. At the moment that is available every fortnight. And that’s a good thing because it’s something they can use, but then I don’t know how it extends out to the family. So if that child is seen because of domestic violence in the home then I don’t know if that extends out to the family, eh? It doesn’t, eh, it focuses on the child. So I don’t know if there’s any wrap around for the family. There’s Maatua Whānga in town, but it isn’t through the school."

Several different types of emergency medical response were described within the community:

"The fire station is sent out every couple of weeks for a cardiac issue. It’s mostly the older ones, because that chopper has been here… every other week it seems."
"We’ve been bumped up the scale, they’ve changed the… so now we get a helicopter almost sooner than we’d get an ambulance. It takes over an hour for an ambulance. Even Tokirima is half an hour from town and it takes over an hour for an ambulance to get out. And then back as well, so that’s why they’re sending the helicopters."
"We have our ‘firies,’ but we also have St Johns, and we have first responders. Quite a spread."

Whereas in 2020 the availability of midwifery care was a concern, currently Ohura residents felt that the maternity services offered out of Taumarunui were more stable and available:

"It’s a lot better now. So, the maternity unit has just shot up with its expectations. They have a full-time midwife in there. My first I was driving to Stratford, then I was driving to Ōtorohanga for appointments."
"Some used to go to New Plymouth. You can go to Taumarunui now."

Getting into town (Taumarunui) to access primary health services proved a barrier to many, though the social connectedness of the community meant that if anyone needed to get into Taumarunui to see a doctor, they were supported to do so. Some participants expressed a concern, however, that there were some quiet or reclusive people who went unnoticed, and in not driving, were very isolated from health services.

If they don’t have a car… you have to take them. You take your one elderly. Everyone’s got one. We’ve got two ‘grandads.’

Whereas in 2020 the community was enthusiastic about and felt well serviced by mobile dental services for children, they were very concerned that these services were no longer available, ostensibly due to various administrative, staffing and bureaucratic issues. These barriers meant that children were not receiving their yearly check-ups:

"As far as the school, dental is non-existing. So you don’t have, it doesn’t come. The problem is where we are and the cost of travelling."
"I don’t know how long it’s been since they’ve been here, or even if they’ve been back here. They don’t have dental technicians to do it. They don’t have reliable vans. I emailed last term and got the whole school in (to a mobile clinic in Taumarunui) and then they failed their COF so those appointments are postponed. They used to come out here but they don’t come out here anymore. It used to come to Ōhura, and Matiere and Tokirima used to come to Ōhura to do it."
"Once yearly is a joke! "

One participant sought private dental care for her children in the absence of the free community oral health service for children.

Other health services which were once available for children were now considered lacking in Ōhura:

  • "That’s the next thing, the public health nurse, she just does not get out here. At COVID she was taken off. We haven’t seen a public health nurse for I don’t know how long. They just come to do the vaccinations and that’s all."
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