If you are over 65 years of age, have been admitted to Waikato or Thames hospitals and need some help to recover once you return home, the Waikato District Health Board’s ‘START’ service is there to lend a hand.
START is short for the Supported Transfer and Accelerated Rehabilitation Team – a mouthful – but a valuable one nonetheless.
Ellen Pirihi of Te Awamutu, Heather Ericksen of Hamilton and Reg Earea of Cambridge can all vouch for that.
As can Hamilton MP Tim Macindoe. Just to name a few.
START is made up of two components: admission avoidance and supported discharge, and tries to either prevent hospital admission from the Emergency Department in the first place, or support early discharge, by providing seven-day support for patients in the home.
The START team is a multidisplinary team with expertise in rehabilitation and works with patients and their families to set rehabilitation goals, and develop a plan to reach those goals.
They visit up to four times a day, seven days a week for up to six weeks, to provide rehabilitation for the patient.
In Mrs Pirihi’s case, the 84-year-old had the START team visit her at home daily for two weeks after spending 17 days in Waikato Hospital for a knee replacement.
Staff went through her daily rehab exercises with her, showed her the best way to go about daily life while her knee healed and took her for walks.
“It’s a fantastic programme and I found the staff very good indeed,” she said.
“I had my other knee done four years ago and I didn’t get the same service then. I’m actually waiting for another operation and am looking forward to coming under the START team again.”
Mr Earea (73) is now a double amputee – a consequence of years of suffering Type 2 Diabetes – and was impressed that START staff respected the fact he wanted to be able to do as much for himself as possible after a month in hospital.
Staff initially visited him three times a day, which eventually reduced to one visit every day for six weeks.
And it’s not only post-operative work that warrants the care of the service, as Mrs Ericksen (70) found out after having a bad reaction to antibiotics which saw her hospitalised with diarrhoea, extreme dehydration and black outs.
“My confidence was really knocked – particularly by the black outs, so the staff came and helped me to set goals for my recovery and work towards achieving them,” she said.
“They told me what to do and were there when I needed help. They took me for walks and out driving. I was scared to drive in case I blacked out.” The START team worked with Mrs Erickson, to increase her mobility and reduce her risk of falls, which enabled Mrs Erickson to gain her confidence, and promote her independence in daily activities.
“The staff were all lovely and it was just like having friends to come and visit. I was quite sad when the six weeks was up.”
Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe has received compliments about the START service through his office, but has also had personal experience of the work they do through his own family.
“While there’s understandable interest in the excellent quality of treatment and care that patients receive in our local hospitals, the post-operative care that many need for some time after they return to their homes is also vitally important and worthy of recognition,” said Mr Macindoe.
“I’m aware from experiences in my own family and from the comments that I often receive from constituents that we are very well served by those who provide this support in our community.
“The START team give essential help to those who often lack confidence and feel fragile as they continue their recovery after leaving hospital.
“I’m personally very impressed and grateful for the professionalism, compassion and skill that our local START team members demonstrate.”
The START service has cared for 665 patients since inception two years ago.
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