Bilingual signs part of testing success for Te Puna Ora o Mataatua

By Mahina Hurkmans

When level 4 came into place many testing stations were set up within Aotearoa. Te Puna Ora o Mataatua wanted to make sure that the messages were clear, ensuring that all signs were bilingual, and making this the only place in Aotearoa where you will find messages in both Māori and English.

"It's really important that we get that messaging out because Māori and our communities don't respond to mainstream messaging. It needs to be targeted approaches and that's been part of the success as well," Chris Tooley says, who is Kaiwhakahaere Matua for Te Puna Ora o Mataatua.

When testing stations throughout the country were being set up, Te Puna Ora o Mataatua, which supports whānau achieve better long-term health and wellbeing, wanted to make sure that the Māori presence was felt throughout their station in Whakatāne. 

"This is a very clinical and sterile environment so it's important that our whānau experience a kaupapa Māori approach and so our guys do the first touch and the last touch when it comes to whānau ora. They explain the process, calm them down, settle them and explain what's going to happen and then our doctors and nurses pick them up at triage one and two," Tooley says.

"We definitely wanted to make sure we had our own kaupapa Māori flavour to it and so all the signs that you see behind us and, as they give instructions through to everyone when they go through the signs, they are all in bilingual. All our pānui that are going out to newspapers are all in bilingual as well."

They have had to be mindful of how best to engage Māori. 

"When we first started the site, we noticed that our whānau and the rural community weren't coming through so we needed to come up with a new model, a new engagement plan," he says. 

"So basically it's a smaller version of what you see here. We go into the community, we were up in Murupara, Kawerau, Ruatoki and so forth and we do one-day pop-ups.

"The response has been pretty overwhelming. When we turn up we already have people queuing to come through the testing station. I think for the first time yesterday we caused the first traffic jam in Waimana. But we were only there for four hours and our team saw 68 people come through in just that period. I think the numbers speak for themselves and every day we are getting requests for us to come into their areas."

Other than the work they put into testing the community, there are still other issues they must help families overcome during isolation.

"We control the 0800 number for civil defence for the region and so we are getting a lot of calls coming through - for people that need transport, hardship, they need support in their home, whether it is addiction issues, alcoholic issues or domestic violence and so forth. And so we've got a team of about a dozen manning the phones 24/7," Tooley says.

Next week they will be setting up testing stations throughout the district making sure they get to as many people as possible