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Critical dental needs addressed in Wairoa


Relief is in sight for Wairoa people needing urgent dental care with dentists coming to town to treat people at a one-off event.

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board has been working with the Wairoa Community Partnership Implementation Group, iwi, leaders, and other health providers to put on Tō Waha, a free dental event, to lift the wellbeing of whānau in Wairoa.

DHB spokesperson Patrick Le Geyt, Executive Director Māori Health, said bringing Tō Waha to Wairoa was a priority to address the immediate critical need for dental care as the town was currently without a dental service for adults.

The free dental event for people aged 18 and over will be held at the DHB’s Wairoa Community Oral Health Clinic between Monday 17 and Saturday 22 January.

Participation in Tō Waha is by appointment only, which will be coordinated through local hauora providers Kahungunu Executive, Te Whare Maire O Tapuwae Trust and Queen St Practice who will be reaching out to whānau requiring urgent dental care.

“Tō Waha provides an opportunity for whānau with urgent and unmet dental disease, who otherwise cannot access or afford dental care, to be seen by a dentist.

“Tō Waha can only run thanks to dentists, dental hygienists and other health professionals volunteering their time. The feedback from the dental community has been very positive showing a real willingness to be part of community events such as Tō Waha to help address unmet dental needs.

“Financially supported by the Royston Health Trust and Princess Alexandra Medical Trust, this initiative is really about supporting communities in need.”

Mr Le Geyt said other health professionals were supporting Tō Waha so whānau who may require other health checks such as diabetes checks and cervical smears, could be done alongside dental care.

“Even if bookings are full and people are on a waiting list, they can come along and talk to someone about any other health concerns they may have.”

This is the second Tō Waha event, following on from a successful pilot, in Flaxmere in 2019 which was a collaboration between the Hawke’s Bay DHB, New Zealand Defence Force and Hawke’s Bay dentists.

Mr Le Geyt said Tō Waha showed that a whānau ora approach, and involving communities and community facing organisations in designing the way the service was delivered was vital to success.

“Hawke’s Bay DHB will continue to support the Wairoa community to develop options for a long-term sustainable solution for dental care,” he said.

Wairoa Community Partnership Implementation Group chairperson Sarah Paku said the Tō Waha programme is an effective response to Wairoa’s immediate needs.

“We are grateful to the District Health Board and volunteer dental specialists who are making this visit possible.

“The fact local people will be able to access free dental care without having to travel out of town is a great opportunity and I encourage as many people as possible to make an appointment.”

Mayor Craig Little said the lack of an adult dental care facility in town is a real barrier. Tō Waha will go towards helping with our short-term needs while the appropriate agencies continue to work on a long-term sustainable solution to have adult oral health care available in town.

“The reduction in service that we are experiencing affects our whole community and we are very appreciative of everyone who is working on solutions for Wairoa whānau.”

Anyone hoping to be seen for dental treatment during the Tō Waha week in Wairoa should contact Karen Paku at Kahungunu Executive in the first instance.

23 December 2021

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