Three Rivers Medical turns 10

12th September 2022 | Back to News
Three Rivers Medical turns 10
TEAM HUDDLE: Some of the Three Rivers team after their twice weekly huddle (morning meeting) which includes waiata (song) and karakia (prayer).

Three Rivers Medical celebrates its 10-year anniversary this month carrying forward a rich legacy from Kaiti Medical Centre days and continuing to raise the bar high for the delivery of primary health services in Tairawhiti.

“There has always been a tikanga here that has carried through from the very beginning,” says former chief executive Ingrid Collins.

It began as Kaiti Medical Centre which was built in 1982 and occupied by Dr Brian Gibson who was joined by Dr Johan Peters and Dr Nick Duffy. Mrs Collins bought into the business in 2005 and was later joined by Dr Tom James and Dr Simon Spenceley, with Dr Fergus Aitcheson coming on board in 2009. This was around the time they started looking for land to build a bigger health centre and found the site on Customhouse Street.

Three Rivers Medical was the baby of the tight five of Dr Gibson, Dr James, Dr Spenceley, Dr Aitcheson and Mrs Collins, who while working at the centre were also investors in the building itself.

The opening of the purpose-built facility in September 2012 signalled the beginning of a new way of delivering community healthcare.

While the practice has seen many changes over the past decade, the commitment to providing the best service to patients and the community remains the same.

Some of those changes included the retirement of founding co-owner and CEO Mrs Collins and welcoming new co-owner Dr Hiria Nielsen and Michelle Te Kira as general manager.

Three Rivers Medical is one of the largest practices under one roof in New Zealand with around 19,500 patients. It has four partners, 15 employee doctors, 20 nurses including six nurse prescribers, and a highly skilled team of administrators and receptionists.

The heart of the practice remains strong with a warm, inclusive organisational culture that both the owners and staff are proud of.

With many long-serving staff members, including several of the original Kaiti Medical team, the owners work hard to maintain a healthy team culture and family friendly work environment.

“We wanted to build a primary healthcare facility for the 21st century — a multi-disciplinary facility — and we wanted to make a bit of a statement,” Dr Aitcheson said.

“We wanted to have a sense of place, hence the name, and we wanted a bit of a wow factor for the staff and our patients.”

Ten years on and the building still has the wow factor — a striking mural symbolising the three rivers is the first thing that greets you in the waiting room.

“We work on our organisational culture and are a values-driven organisation.”

Another thing that runs through Three Rivers is the sense of whanau.

“It is very much a big unruly, messy family.”

Dr Tom James agrees.

“The team has changed but the spirit is still very patient-orientated and community-orientated.

“We're proud to serve our community and we love the work we do.”

The building had performed well, he said. It was very well engineered; built on a raft foundation to ensure it would withstand a shake.

Three Rivers had to be adaptable and agile, especially during the first wave of the pandemic.

“As a generation it's something we've never experienced before,” says Dr Spenceley.

“We were learning as we went along and took the lead from public health, and worked closely with Turanga Health, Gisborne Hospital, Pinnacle Health and the other practices in town.”

General manager Michelle Te Kira started at Three Rivers in July last year.

Ms Te Kira brings a wealth of experience to her role at Three Rivers and sits on several national boards. She is the current chair of Practice Managers and Administrators of New Zealand.

She sits on the boards of General Practice NZ, General Practice Leaders Forum and is also on the executive board for GenPro representing Three Rivers Medical.

She also sits on some other advisory boards for Te Whatu Ora — formerly The Ministry of Health.

Ms Te Kira feels strongly about equity and is committed to working more closely with iwi and iwi partnership boards.

“This practice needs to work alongside iwi, Maori health providers, community health services and mental health services, so basically it's better for the patient experience.”

She and the team are developing a new whanau ora space upstairs where they will provide rongoa medicine and have kaumatua clinics.

New co-owner Dr Hiria Nielsen started at Three Rivers in 2016 and said it was amazing to celebrate this milestone birthday with the team.

“We are so lucky to have some of the original people from Kaiti Medical still working with us.

“That is a testament to our staying power and the resilience of our team.

“I am proud that our practice has evolved – and it's one of our superpowers really: our ability to be flexible and change with the times.

“Since Covid has come through it has been all about change and responding and adapting quickly to that. I think that's what we have done well.”

Within the Three Rivers Medical building is Three Rivers Pharmacy, Geneva Healthcare, MoleMap, physiotherapy, radiology, podiatry, psychology and a visiting general surgeon.

“It is still our goal to provide the best service in town for our patients all under one roof,” says Dr Spenceley.

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