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Flying START towards post-hospital rehabilitation

Raewyn Campbell, Thames

Photo: Thames resident Raewyn Campbell with her collection of hats from her travels.

For a glowing reference, you couldn’t get better than Thames resident Raewyn Campbell who had 10 days of intensive support and rehabilitation with the Thames START team in July after a ball joint hip replacement. “They have been fantastic,” she says.

START is the Waikato DHB service that supports patients to make a safe and quicker transition from hospital to home. It provides the intensive support and rehabilitation some patients need, but in their own home rather than through a longer stay in hospital. It also significantly reduces readmission rates because it sets people right for sustained recovery and identifies any longer term support they might need.

The success of START* since it began seven years ago encouraged further investment from Waikato DHB, ACC and Ministry of Health this year. As a result, the number of clients it handles has now grown from 96 to 147 and the service covers all of the Waikato DHB’s area, and takes clients from Thames, Taumarunui, Te Kuiti and Tokoroa hospitals as well as Waikato Hospital in Hamilton. Additional staff were recruited and associate charge nurse managers (team leaders) were appointed to support the expanded service.

It’s the Thames START team of registered nurses and healthcare assistants that looked after Raewyn Campbell when she was discharged from hospital after a hip replacement, but the team is typical of the three teams which now cover the vast Waikato DHB health district.

“Our clients really love START, and their families do too, ” says START Thames’ associate charge nurse manager Annette Lane. “Often people are used to ‘coping’ and they underestimate the support they might need. Others are a bit fearful of returning home. The two to four weeks we give them – help with showering, giving them exercises, suggesting things that might help – rebuilds their confidence.”

She says the team finds out more about a person when they visit their home, and often can problem solve or point clients and families in the right direction for additional help.

The team works in closely with the Disability Support Link service based in the same former ward wing at Thames Hospital. They both liaise closely with other services including Thames’ Emergency Department (for clients who can be discharged from ED without being admitted to hospital, but may need further support at home) and with Age Concern which is based just across the road. The service also taps into the hospital’s physiotherapy and occupational therapy services.

Thames START team

Some of the registered nurses and healthcare assistants that make up the Thames START team: Some of the Thames-based START team (left to right): Yvonne O’Donnell HCA, Debbie Shepherd HCA, Karen Sherriff HCA, Liz Wilson RN, Patrice Marra HCA, Annette Lane ACNM.

Raewyn Campbell, former teacher and a global traveller, values her mobility and independence highly, and gives credit to the “flying START” the team gave her with rehabilitation at home.

“They are the most amazing group,” she says. “Nothing is too much trouble. They didn’t push ideas onto me, but they gave me ideas. They didn’t hover around me, but they helped me and then let me do it myself. They encourage you to have the attitude you need to have.”


* START stands for Supported Transfer and Accelerated Rehabilitation Team.


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