Health centre on the way

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 11:09 27/02/2014
Southland Times photo
LAUREN HAYES/Fairfax NZ
West Otago Health Trust chairman Allister Body surveys the building progress at the site of the new medical and aged care centre in Tapanui.

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Work is intensifying on an innovative West Otago health centre that will allow senior citizens to remain close to their families.

The centre, commissioned by the West Otago Health Trust in Tapanui, will combine the services of the town's existing medical centre with a 14 bed rest home in a new purpose-built centre, complete with a garden.

West Otago Health Trust chairman Allister Body said construction was expected to finish in July.

As well as the builders, there were also plumbers, bricklayers, three types of electricians, roofers, glaziers and members of the fire service working on site, he said.

''It's a hive of activity. There's heaps happening.''

The almost $3million dollar centre, the result of community fundraising, will fill a gap present in many rural New Zealand communities.

In the past, when elderly people in West Otago needed to move towards supported living, their only option was to relocate to Gore or Roxburgh, away from family and friend support, Mr Body said.

The new centre would allow those who wanted to stay in the area to do so, while still receiving the support they needed.

The home will contain 12 permanent rooms, two temporary stay respite rooms, a dining room and lounges, a sun deck and a garden area.

During the design process, the trust had emphasised the need to make the aged-care rooms feel comfortable and cosy.

''If you wouldn't put it in your own house, you won't stick it in here. It's people's houses that we're allowed to work in.''

According to 2006 Census data, there were 165 people over the age of 65 living in the district, and this was expected to double by 2026, he said.

Also critical was the new centre's triage area, where medical staff would help those seriously injured in events like car crashes or farm accidents.

The centre covered triage for all of West Otago, and staff often found themselves dealing with crisis situations, Mr Body said.

''On average, I think the helicopter flies out [to transport seriously injured patients] once a week, so there are hiccups.''

It was important to get the design of the triage rooms exactly right, as it was in these areas staff would see people at their worst, he said.

West Otago Community Board chairwoman Barbara Hanna said the centre's development was exciting.

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