For the community by the community

March 3, 2022

All hands on deck

When Robert Bartley (Robert Bartley Foundation) first approached Michael and Sandra Eden of GDM about converting a library bus into a mobile health unit, his overwhelming desire was that they create something for the community by the community. The Waka Hauora – Health Bus is the result. Currently used for the COVID 19 vaccination rollout in the Whanganui District, it will be a mobile unit for health education, prevention, and treatment, reaching some of the more remote locations in our region.

GDM began work on Waka Hauora mid 2021 and deadlines were tight as the Whanganui District Health Board wanted to use the bus for COVID vaccinations straight out of August’s lockdown. GDM tapped into our own staff who had completed their own bus and campervan conversions, then sourced support from our local community by way of a plumber, electrician, aluminum door manufacturer, upholsterer, curtain manufacturer, freight company, graphic designer and applicator, locksmith, and truck mechanic to name just a few!

“Everyone had their part to play on this project, I am particularly proud of how we all came together in such a short space of time for what is an incredibly important initiative for our community,” says Michael Eden, Managing Director GDM.

Not your standard fit out

To ensure Waka Hauora could be used as a mobile health unit, it had to be a fully functioning sterile environment where hygienic conditions were paramount, while also providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere for all. It also had to be fit for purpose, with the ability to travel considerable distances to some of our more remote communities.

To achieve this, GDM utilised our own in-house team to design the layout of the bus. We worked closely with the Whanganui District Health Board to ensure the functionality was up to standard and to consider the requirements for the different demographics and ethnicities entering the bus.

The joinery and lining requirements were much more stringent than what we are used to, having never worked under medical grade conditions before. The bus is lined with seratone to provide a surface that is easy to clean and keep sterile, and the units are manufactured out of melamine and sealed with silicone. Once the lining was complete, nonslip, hard-wearing vinyl was laid on the floor and sealed.

Our team at GDM are incredibly proud of this project which was not without its challenges. Nothing was straight inside the bus; all the walls were curved. Water, wastewater, heating and ventilation allow the bus to operate in remote locations for days at a time.

Flow and storage was paramount, the design has allowed a good flow for people to enter and exit and enough room for five health professionals. Fixed parameters were designed around vaccine fridges, hands-free taps, adjustable bed (designed and manufactured by GDM), visitor seating and a staff computer desk.

The design graphics on the exterior of the bus are attention grabbing, fun and conversation worthy. They represent many aspects of the Whanganui community, along with personal mementos of Robert Bartley’s. It’s a welcoming space for all in our community.

Waka Hauora – making a difference in the community

Waka Hauora, was set to work immediately in August 2021 for daily COVID-19 vaccinations. Other preventative examinations are also planned to improve preventative healthcare in the wider community.

“The Health Bus has had a great response from both the community and WDHB employees who have utilised it. The bus is a cheerful, inviting space thanks to the layout and graphics.

I think the bus makes such a difference to those health workers who are going out into our community because it provides a hygienic, weatherproof clinic. They can provide comfortable, hygienic healthcare to the community through rain, hail or shine.

The fit-out of the bus came with many challenges for the team at GDM. Everything had to meet standards, right down to the colours used. Due to the bus being a community project, keeping costs down whilst maintaining quality and not cutting corners was crucial. The fit-out of the bus was completed in record time and the fact that it hit the ground running, and is utilised seven days a week is a huge testament to all those involved in the project.”

Caitlin McDonald, Foundation Coordinator, Robert Bartley Foundation

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