Kaitaia GP Dr Lance O'Sullivan, who parted ways with Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika earlier this year, and his wife Tracey have opened an independent general practice within the Kaitaia Hospital complex.
Named 'Te Kohanga Whakaora' - The nest to make well' - by kaumatua Hector Busby, the practice was already living up to that expectation, Mrs O'Sullivan (kaiarahi, navigator/assistant) said earlier this week.
"Enrolments have been increasing steadily since we opened two weeks ago, and we are getting busier and busier every day."
The official opening/powhiri had been well attended by both locals and out-of-towners, including Iron Maori triathlon organisers Heather and Wayne Skipworth, who travelled from Napier, and Dr O'Sullivan's uncle Gerard O'Sullivan, from Timaru, "who doesn't venture up this way that often. It was very special," she said.
"Part of our kaupapa is to make primary health care more accessible for whanau," she added.
"Our motto is 'Whatever it takes'."
That included the concept of a 'walk-in clinic,' where appointments were not needed, and a text/phone system for those lacking landlines or credit. Plans were also being made to utilise technology such as skype, to save patients the need to call in person.
"We want to consult with our community around what they want in terms of access, workshops etc. There are a lot of barriers for people wanting to see a doctor that we wish to break down," Mrs O'Sullivan said.
And she "just knew" that people would "dig "the female GP (with Te Rarawa affiliation) who would arrive in February.
Dr O'Sullivan, whose previous employment had foundered over "philosophical differences," and his family had at one point been preparing to emigrate to Australia.
"But we had lots of people calling at home and wanting to see Lance, so we made the decision to open the clinic. It's been a massive learning curve but really exciting. It's not without its stress, but we love it," she added.
"It's about the people. This is our home and community; we love living here."
Dr O'Sullivan had no doubt that the decision was the right one.
"I'm young, I've got a lot of passion and energy, and I believe I have some good ideas to bring to this place," he said.
"I think it's an incredibly awesome community, and I want to be a part of helping if I can with the special skills I can contribute."
Dr O'Sullivan is also serving as the clinical overseer for Otago University medical student Kapowairua Stephens (Te Rarawa/Te Aupouri), who is spending her summer studentship research grant in the Far North, in the field of auto electrical defibrillators.
The 18-year-old former Kaitaia College student had just completed her pre-med year at Otago, her results (three A-pluses and three As) making her the top Maori/Pacific Island scholar.
Kapowairua said she had been inspired to become a doctor as she had always loved science, "and growing up in a place like Kaitaia, where I saw a lot of health problems. I saw at school that a lot of people were away sick, and I wanted to help with that."
She was "definitely keen" to practise in the Far North once she finished her studies, and respected Dr O'Sullivan as a great role model. She had also been inspired by other former Kaitaia College, such as Luke and John Ward.
"They show that you can do it, even though you may come from up here, it doesn't matter. It just takes motivation and passion.
"You just have to know how to work hard and really want to be a doctor," she said.