Going above and beyond duty of care to get patients home

It was a rollercoaster of emotions for Leo Hunter and Alys Mauheni from the Gisborne Hospital services team during an eleventh-hour, two-day patient transfer, following Cyclone Gabrielle.

Patients who had just received chemotherapy needed to return home to Wharekahika and didn’t feel comfortable flying. With eastern State Highway 35 closed, the only route possible was through Ōpōtiki.

“I was happy to help out and Alys even came in on her day off to tag team the trip,” said Leo.

“We wanted the journey to be as calm as possible for our patients, which was long and slow. “It was stop/go all the way to Matawai until we got to the Waioeka Gorge.

“That section of the drive provided a much-needed sense of calm and beauty for all of us. We really got to know our patients and had some good laughs,” said Alys.

They reached Ōpōtiki at nightfall, to find out there were highway curfews in place and needed to get off the road.

After finding somewhere to stay and hunkering down for the night, they were back on the road the next morning.

“The lovely kuia receiving her chemo medication in Wharekahika was truly thankful and the patients were so happy they finally got home safely.

Their adventure wasn’t over yet though, as their return journey proved even more eventful.

 “We saw the damage to roads and nearby land first-hand and up close.

“It seemed like it took forever to get back.

“It was just a waiting game with delays for hours in Otoko and Puha before our convoy saw any movement.

“There were so many vehicles waiting including trucks carrying food, donations and bread. We were all helping each other out, it felt like we were all in it together.

“We finally made it home late that afternoon and were so relieved.

“It was the uncertainty about whether we were going to be safe that got to us” said Alys.

Roger Huntington, operations manager for the Gisborne Hospital Emergency Operations Centre said, “This was an example of staff once again going over and above for our people.

“It was a very last-minute request and we are very grateful for their time and for putting our patients first. They both made this happen which is greatly appreciated.”

Leo said it was well worth it.

“It was a good feeling to be helping the community – just like taking family home. It’s someone’s nanny,” he said.

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