Technology bridging the health gap for East Coast resident

16 December 2016

Lisa Porter Rural Health Nurse, Vernon Waru and Dr Helen Gardyne on screen

Lisa Porter Rural Health Nurse, Vernon Waru and Dr Helen Gardyne on screen

One of its residents, 43 year old Vernon Waru, who was once a shepherd, is proving that telehealth technology is bridging the healthcare gap for this remote Kiwi town.

In 2013 Vernon became very ill with renal failure and needed daily peritoneal dialysis. He also lost part of his vision in 2015. In 2016 he was very fortunate to receive a life-saving kidney transplant with the Midland Regional Renal Service.

After a month of intensive post-operative care Vernon was the first Waikato District Health Board (DHB) Renal Service patient to be regularly reviewed through telehealth voice and video conferencing system.

After a protocol kidney transplant biopsy, and three months after the transplant took place, Vernon’s care was transferred to Gisborne Hospital specialist Dr Richard Moore.

The telehealth support has continued with Dr Moore reviewing Vernon through a virtual health platform between Gisborne and Te Puia Springs Hospitals.

“Telehealth is the best technology they could ever do” says Vernon.

“I’ve been amazed.

“I can’t see properly, so the nurse helps me get enabled and I do the talking part. It’s exactly like the consultations I had at Waikato Hospital, but from my home town.

“When I was travelling to Waikato Hospital, I would have to get to Gisborne, fly in the morning to Hamilton, and then fly back from Hamilton to Gisborne in the afternoon.”

Most of his time was spent waiting for his appointment and flights.

When questioned if he found telehealth easy to use, Vernon said very easy.

“It’s awesome technology. Everyone that has the chance should use it.”

Vernon and his partner Barbara have four children; the 14 year old is still at home. Their family now have more time to enjoy their life on the coast thanks to telehealth. His partner has also been able to go back to her rural delivery job full-time.

Specialty clinical nurse of Midland Regional Renal Service Lesley McCarthy says we’re so pleased to be able to give back many days of Vernon’s life once spent travelling.

“The first year of treatment after a kidney transplant is expensive. At around 18 months a transplant is cost neutral when compared with dialysis and thereafter is around $40,000 less each year.

“Transplants usually work for more than 10 years.

“Not only is telehealth easy for patients like Vernon, it is also bringing the travel cost of renal care down significantly. Tairawhiti DHB saved over $500 each time the DHB replaced a conventional clinic appointment with a telehealth consultation.

“This year alone we’ve completed 16 transplants. If we can start to provide more remote transplant telehealth appointments it’s an all-round win-win situation for patients and the healthcare system.”

Vernon’s working life would have remained unchanged now if he still had his vision. But he still gets on his horse Tahi who takes Vernon on the same track to check his possum traps, then home, all from Tahi’s memory.

Vernon would like to thank the Midland Regional Renal team, and his supportive partner Barbara who without them says he wouldn’t be here.

More about telehealth

Telehealth is one part of Waikato DHB’s strategy to deliver health services online and offer care closer to home. Telehealth has dedicated facilities located across the Midland region for people to access video conference equipment with the help of their local healthcare professionals. Find out more about telehealth.