Thames Hospital is celebrating 150 years of existence – 1868 to 2018 – with a range of events, displays and lectures.
Jacquie Mitchell has been the manager for Thames Hospital and community health services for 21 years, and when looking back – and into the future – two big themes stand out for her: the importance of the relationship of the local community and its hospital; and the innovation which created and kept Thames Hospital at the forefront of health services.
“When I first came here I was taken with the position of the hospital had in the community and by the amount of history and memorabilia featured around the hospital,” Jacquie says.
“There has always been strong involvement of the community in the hospital, and likewise our health services have strong links into our communities. Our district nursing, public health nursing and dental health services are always out and about in the community, and ensure we are well connected to community needs. We also have good relationships with GPs, practice nurses, St John Ambulance, and aged care facilities.
“AgeWise is a group made up of health providers, NGOs and volunteers focused on what we can do for older people in this area, and that’s been a really important connection for us. It was instrumental in getting Age Concern to come to Thames some years ago. Local service groups like Rotary have also been so supportive in terms of funds and help with hospital projects.”
The foundation partnership with Ngati Maru is really important to Thames Hospital. It was Ngati Maru chief Wiropi Taipari and his son Te Hoterini Taipari who gifted the original land the hospital was built on. “The iwi donated land, community fundraising (as there was no public money available) made the building possible, and clergy and many others in the community were involved in putting it all together,” Jacquie says.
This was back in 1868 when Thames was was a goldmine town and miners were often injured or needed somewhere to go for their health needs. The gold mining boom ended but the town grew and so did the hospital. By 1899 the original building on Mary Street was condemned but bigger and better buildings replaced it, gradually filling the campus site close to the centre of town.
“It was the innovative and ‘can do’ attitude of the local community that pulled our hospital together and that’s a thread that runs through all the 150 years the Thames is celebrating,” says Jacquie Mitchell with pride.
Today the innovations are very exciting in terms of what technology can offer a hospital that covers such a wide and often remote countryside and is one-and-a-half hours’ drive from the regional tertiary hospital in Hamilton.
Those challenges have made Thames a leader in Waikato DHB’s use of telehealth technology to link doctors, patients, and many other health professionals in specialist consultations, clinical team discussions, education forums, and business meetings, saving everyone hours of travel and bringing expert healthcare as close as possible to the patient’s own home or community.
“We are always trying to think of different ways to be able to provide health services,” explains Jacquie Mitchell. “The scope of telehealth in this area is huge and our staff have taken this up with enthusiasm.” In oncology, for example, patients can be seen via telehealth by a consultant in Waikato Hospital while they are sitting with their nurse in Thames Hospital, rather than waiting for the once-a-month visit that the consultant might have been going to make.
At Thames Hospital, advances in technology and clinical care sit comfortably with the more emotional side of caring for people. There is a warm connection with its past and a pride in its place. Within the hospital are a growing number of memorabilia and photographic displays that celebrate the people and places connected to Thames Hospital, and the hospital grounds are a lot more than lawns and concrete.
“The grounds are something we feel really proud of,” says Jacquie. “We have beautiful gardens, colourful murals, and sculptures, mostly thanks to support from our community.”
It is appropriate that local iwi Ngati Maru, who gave the land for Thames Hospital, is currently working on a carving for the front entrance to the hospital and is also making korowai (cloaks) for the 150 year celebration, and on 4 September a totara tree donated by Rotary was planted in the hospital grounds on the corner of Karaka and Rolleston Streets to mark 150 years of community connection with Thames Hospital.
Thames Hospital has come a long way in 150 years, but not lost the important relationships and forward-looking attitude that gave it such a great start back in 1868.
Go to the Thames Hospital Facebook page or to our Waikato DHB website for more information about the celebrations and range of events, displays and lectures. A series of short videos about the history of Thames Hospital will be linked to as they become available from late September 2018.