Waiouru was not considered to have many people living in the community with high health needs and has few retirees.
“We don’t have a lot of old people here. It’s not a town that suits retirees, so it’s actually you could count them on one, maybe two hands. When people reach retirement if they live in an army house they naturally move out.”
In terms of primary care there is a medical facility in camp available to NZDF staff and civilian personnel under certain criteria. Otherwise, a clinic from Taihape is held in Waiouru on a Tuesday and Thursday staffed by a nurse and a doctor. Alternately people will travel to Raetihi to see a doctor. Residents seemed somewhat resigned, albeit still concerned, to the fact that limitations to medical care will exist in Waiouru. Although Waiouru does not have a pharmacy, residents are highly satisfied with the service offered by the pharmacy in Taihape.
“The pharmacy is really good. You can order stuff from the pharmacy (in Taihape) and he’ll send it up by courier. And he doesn’t have to do that. And that gets to the shop at 3:30pm every day. So his service has been amazing. And you can order anything, anything from the shop, and you just say you want it delivered to the shop and you pay for it at the shop and you don’t have to drive. And he does the same for the camp, for the military personnel.”
“We’re probably a product of our own success. With the fatality rate decreasing on the desert road and with that the need for an ambulance here started to dissipate. A lot of it has been managed out. And like everything if it doesn’t get used…so that’s been part of the reason. And when you have a younger population in a town, yes you’re going to have accidents but there’s not so many illnesses, so there’s not the demographic, it’s different.”
“We can’t change it I suppose. Like today there was a suspected broken wrist in the school. So if you’re going to break something try to do it on Tuesday or Thursday otherwise you’ve got to go to Whanganui. Which is pretty frustrating for children.”
Participants also felt that people with health conditions had to be organised and prepared as immediate medical care was not always available .
“All specialist care is in Whanganui and some specialists might come up monthly to Taihape and Raetihi, but you don’t always get in”.
“… has asthma so I have a kit on me so everything I need; my medicine cabinet is full because you can’t rely on things to be open. Like with snow days. … So the doctor in camp tells people to be prepared with your meds and first aid kits because you don’t know when you won’t be able to access stuff. … So I’ve just learnt to have back up kits available. When I use a bottle of something I replace it."
Travel to access specialist care in Whanganui or Taupo is viewed as a financial stress for residents.
“All specialist care is in Whanganui … it is a financial burden on some people, like if you’ve got a sick kid or something."
Wait times for medical care is also a concern.
“You are tied into the Whanganui Hospital because of where we live, but we have sent people to Taupo, only because it’s a smaller hospital and they get seen to quicker.”