“There was really no other decision to make – I had the time and training, my family were supportive, and I knew I’d meet some great people,” said Dr Susie Moller.
We were delighted to be able to speak with Dr Susie Moller, a locum GP based in Auckland, about her experience providing assistance in Tairāwhiti following Cyclone Gabrielle.
Two months after Cyclone Gabrielle, Tairāwhiti remains one of the worst-hit regions, with stories of response and recovery truly reflecting the devastation in the region.
The extent of damage was a shock, with the road damage being the main factor Dr Moller noted. Many of
which were completely impassable, meaning patients could not get to clinics or clinicians get to them.
The Community’s tenacity had health professionals thinking outside the box, with horses and helicopters being two crucial solutions to overcoming infrastructure damage. Comparably, the impact on healthcare practices was exemplified by the lack of power and telecoms and most significantly, road access resulted in short staffing issues challenging various practices.
“Sick patients needing tertiary care travelled several hours through backcountry forestry roads, or if urgent, we would need to call a helicopter and hope the weather was OK for them to come.”
The NZLocums team placed Dr Moller in Tairāwhiti for two weeks lending her training and ability to those practices that were the most deeply affected. Dr Moller stated, “Once telecoms were up and running, people were able to communicate and adapt to the changing needs of the community with response teams coordinating efficiently”.
The lack of pharmacy or dental care in Tairāwhiti added to the challenges faced by health professionals, along with the restricted access to medications and clinic supplies. Water supply issues coupled with the urgent infrastructure rebuild also had real impacts on Tairāwhiti’s greater community.
Despite all these challenges, the people of Tairāwhiti did not bat an eye when it came to coming together to support each other in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle. Dr Moller described the collective feeling of hope within the region, with everyone getting on with the job to help each other. Nothing was impossible, something could be worked out.
Reflecting upon her time in Tairāwhiti, Dr Moller was full of praise for those in the region.
“I take my hat off to the permanent Healthcare teams there. They are relentlessly positive in very trying circumstances, isolated and under-resourced, but ultimately most important, care deeply for their community”.