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From White House to Light House.

By Pauline Stewart.

The early hour of 6.30am and threatening rain did not deter a large crowd of locals, visiting dignitaries, and many medical professionals gathering for the opening of Mercury Bay Medical Centre, 83 Joan Gaskell Drive in Whitianga on Monday, 3 July.

Those who knew Joan Gaskell and worked with her might have thought Joan would be smiling at this achievement. The people who made this happen deserve a cheer and our ongoing support. Joe Davis Ngati Hei Kaumatua led the gathering through every corridor offering a blessing and a brief prayer that every space might offer healing and care to its occupants. He was accompanied by Hannah Walker, one of the Directors, as there were many spaces and adjacent corridors in this beautifully designed and airy spacious centre. Hannah guided Joe and the gathering to all of them. Sometimes the crowd was so large that those who had finished their tour of blessing were meeting those still entering the building.

Mayor Len Salt and Thames Coromandel District Councillors, Deli Connell and Rekha Percival were there to offer their support and goodwill as was Community Board member, Bess Kingi. Thirty - four staff, both part time and full time, will provide the expert medical service and care for Mercury Bay’s new Medical Centre. Lorraine MacAllister, Business Manager at the Mercury Bay Medical Centre, asserts the real advantages in having the team of seven doctors on the one site; the ease of communication between medicos will be an advantage for all, especially the patients. There are four Directors – Dan and Melanie Asquith, Adele Pudney and Hannah Walker and Lorraine is the Business manager. Lorraine adds, “It’s been a lot of hard work, but we are very pleased for the doors to be open to our people. We have done it on time, and so many have come.”

Once the blessing of the spaces was complete, Joe Davis, addressed the crowd as to the importance of the fact that this was a collaborative effort between local iwi, medical planners and the community. Everyone wanted this Centre.

Joe added that it was all for the sake of the wellbeing of our people and the health of our children. He concluded with the Lord’s Prayer in Te Reo Maori.

Hannah Walker then offered a tea and coffee break after which was the cutting of the ribbon to officially open the doors.

Dan Asquith gave a brief and quite inspiring speech, and with a broad smile stated, “The Centre has a nickname – just getting in early; it’s The Light House - we have moved from the White House.” The night before, when many staff and community members were making the finishing touches, the Centre’s lights were ablaze. It was a wonder to see it (front page), hence the Light House.

The cutting of the ribbon was quite a moving aspect of this opening ceremony. We were touched by the symbol of having the oldest member in the community and the most recently arrived to do the honours. Peter Sheehan at 100 and Telula Loubser at seven weeks (with Mum’s help) were the ribbon cutters. This was a celebration – the culmination of years of visioning, differing in view points, planning, investing, believing and actioning. Well done in a time of challenge for the Coromandel Peninsula.

This is just the first stage – Leigh Hopper and his team have plans for Stage Two and Stage Three.

But first there are many finishing touches for this Centre be totally complete. It is so modern and streamlined with many different consultation rooms. Everything is airy and clean and open. The town of Whitianga and the surrounding Mercury Bay will grow into this Centre and in some ways, this Centre will be the reason people live longer and stay forever in Whitianga.

Caption: Night shot of the Mercury Bay Medical Centre.

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