Whānau House a treasured place of respite for whānau supporting patients at Whangārei Hospital | Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau

Whānau House a treasured place of respite for whānau supporting patients at Whangārei Hospital

Supporting a whānau member who has been unexpectedly or suddenly admitted to hospital can be a very challenging time, especially if you’re not sure where you can stay or if you’ll be able to cook a meal for yourself. It’s natural to want to stay as close as possible to the person you are supporting.

Pictured from front to back are Whangārei Whānau House kaimahi Sheryl Poutai, Henrietta Sakey, and Louisa E Kingi.

The Whānau House at Whangārei Hospital provides emergency accommodation for people who are in just that position. For $10 a night per person people who have a whānau member admitted on a ward at the hospital have a safe place on the hospital campus where they can unwind, cook kai, use a washing machine, and whakatau, restart, and replenish themselves so that they are better able to support and care for their loved one on the ward.

“The whare is called “Te Whaea o Te Iwi” (the mother of the people),” says Louisa Kingi, Kaiarai Takawaenga for Te Poutokomanawa (the Māori Health Directorate) at Northland DHB. “It is available for everyone, non-Māori and Māori whānau. 

“There are some important considerations for everyone staying in the whare to ensure it is restful for all. There are no visitors to the whare, only those who are staying there are allowed in the whare. This includes after hours. There is no vaping/smoking/alcohol or drugs and animals are not allowed. The Whare is also only available to fully vaccinated people (including fully vaccinated children) at the moment, as a response to COVID-19.

“We understand that this presents real challenges for some whānau but it is the best way for us to keep everyone as safe as we can and to support the health and recovery of the loved ones who are on our wards.”

Whānau who find themselves in Whangārei supporting someone admitted to hospital but who are without access to food can be connected with support to get kai. “We can help whānau in need directly or help link them access food support from My Food Bank who may even be able to collect kai and bring it in.”

The Whānau House has a dedicated team of kaitiaki who are available to support whānau. While staffing is limited at the moment due to COVID-19, and because some staff have been seconded to support other teams, Louisa and the Whānau House kaitiaki ensure that whānau can access the house between 7am and 9:30pm. The security team will also escort whānau to the house and let them in so that they can feel safe if they have been visiting their loved one later in the evening.

An exciting development for the team is the upcoming arrival of a Whānau House at the Bay of Islands Hospital. The house project has been led by Mare Clarke, a Takawaenga service member based at the Bay of Islands Northland DHB campus. The house has been built by inmates at Northland Region Corrections Facility near Kaikohe, with the Hugo Trust having donated the whānau house build.

While the new whare’s arrival has been delayed due to COVID, it will soon be servicing the needs of families in the Mid North with emergency accommodation needs who are supporting whānau admitted to the Bay of Islands hospital in Kawakawa.

“We understand how important it is to have a place where a person’s wairua can be restored and uplifted so that they can better serve in their role as carer for a whānau member who has been admitted to hospital,” says Louisa, “and we are here to support them in a practical way.

“We find that when whānau stay with us they show their care for the Whānau House and what it has provided for them in really lovely ways. Firstly, they take amazing care of the whare so it is in a great condition for those who follow them, but they often also provide koha such as blankets, cushions, or kai for others. We’ve even had people replace lightbulbs that aren’t working. We’re so grateful that people understand the kaupapa behind this whare and that they look after our ‘whaea’.”

Whānau who want to enquire about staying at the Whānau House can contact Louisa Kingi via the main hospital number on 09 4304100.

“Just a reminder for whānau, bookings to stay at Te Whaea o te Iwi can’t be made in advance as this is emergency accommodation only,” says Louisa. “However, if you find yourself with a sudden accommodation need while you support a whānau member admitted to Whangārei Hospital, call us and we will do our best to help you.”



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