Prior to 1981 Hawkes Bay and Poverty Bay NSZP members were part of the Wellington branch. In the early years prior to the HB branch Johnny Johnston used to commute to Wellington to attend NZSP meetings and never missed a meeting: she used cycle to work, cycle to the bus station to catch the bus at 1pm, bus the 6 hours to Wellington for the meeting, catch the bus back at 11.30pm and sleep in the bus and then cycle back to work the next day.
Prior to 1981 Hawkes Bay and Poverty Bay NSZP members were part of the Wellington branch. In the early years prior to the HB branch Johnny Johnston used to commute to Wellington to attend NZSP meetings and never missed a meeting: she used cycle to work, cycle to the bus station to catch the bus at 1pm, bus the 6 hours to Wellington for the meeting, catch the bus back at 11.30pm and sleep in the bus and then cycle back to work the next day. If the bus was late the meeting was delayed! In 1981 NZSP set up regional areas and Hawkes Bay was part of the Central region. Initially Poverty Bay was placed with Waikato, but this was altered in 1983 as it was closer for Gisborne physiotherapists to travel to Hawkes Bay.
The branch was started by resident physiotherapists in 1981 and was well supported by Napier and Hastings Hospital Board physiotherapists as well as the local private practitioners who at that stage numbered only four. Johnny Johnstone continued to be a stalwart of the local branch and was celebrated for her foresight, dedication and her immense contribution to the profession, She was awarded HB branch life membership in 1983 and Life Membership of National NZSP in 2001.
‘Johnny’ as she was known started as sole charge physio at Hastings Hospital and through her hard work, fundraising and commitment over the 37 years developed the physiotherapy department. She was renowned for her community spirit, can do attitude and the Pembroke Welsh Corgis at work. Johnny‘s passion was for musculoskeletal physiotherapy and ultraviolet therapy. She travelled extensively working with many of the leading physiotherapy innovators and researchers. She set up the Fiji physio service in the wake of the polio epidemic in 1959. Her protégée Barnie Watts (graduated 1955) worked at Hastings hospital for 35 years, becoming Charge in 1979 on Johnny’s retirement. Barnie became a life member of Hawkes Bay branch of NZSP in 2006.
The Bay has physiotherapists who have been leaders across a wide spectrum of the profession making contributions on a national and international level. They have also lead in the profession: Andrew Potts (President of the NZPPA), Barbara Mawson (Physiotherapy Board), several on the national executive of PNZ, two PNZ National Presidents: Jill Howard (2000-2002) and Jon Warren (2006-8). However our strength is in the passion we hold for our work whether it be in community, neurology, sports, public, respiratory, women’s health, paediatrics, musculoskeletal, private, palliative, or rehabilitation areas of work. Also we have benefited from the way public and private sectors have worked together over the years to be inclusive and supportive of each other.
Funding has been vital to the employment of physiotherapists. Initially the physiotherapists were largely hospital employed, but private practices blossomed when ACC regulations were introduced in 1974. In 1990 funding decreased and the Health Department subsidy stopped and there have been constant changes to this funding. Hospital physiotherapist numbers grew over the years to meet the needs of the growing volume of patients. The hospital was the traditional way of growing new physiotherapists allowing new graduates the opportunity to rotate through different areas of work under the guidance of more senior physiotherapists. NZSP branch membership steadily rose from 17 in 1950s, 68 in 2000, then nearly doubled that number in the early 2000s. At this time private practices grew and solo practices grew to employee juniors and have branches of their practices in different regions of Hawkes Bay. Traditionally Otago Physio students have come to Hawkes Bay, and now they come as a Hub of 8 students based at the Hawkes Bay Regional Hospital with placements in private practices and the hospital.
Hawkes Bay branch of PNZ has always been a strong branch thanks to the passion and energy of those involved on the committees. In the mid 1980s courses were run by the branch which covered costs and in 1995 the emphasis was to raise funds. The branch has endeavoured to provide a broad base of interesting educational opportunities and since 1995 it has provided 3 evening talks per year, a course and a relevant speaker at the AGM. The Bay has been proud of its excellent attendance at talks (40-50) which happened with the introduction of wine and food supplied at the talks in 1995. Significant funds have been saved over the years and the Education Fund was set up in 2010 to provide a way of assisting Hawkes Bay physiotherapists to learn more through research/education funding, or providing courses for the branch. On May 15-18th 1998 Napier hosted the NZSP National Biennial conference at the War Memorial Conference Centre on Marine Parade.
The future for physiotherapy is in moving with the times. The branch needs to embrace technology more to enable us to network with our more distant members in Central Hawkes Bay and Gisborne. Skype is being tried for meetings, and teleconferencing and videoing seriously discussed to enable all members to access talks. We have always found keen physiotherapists to keep running the branch and keeping the education going. This is proving more challenging with time as everyone is busy. The profession needs to be flexible, diversify and work more in primary health with non-communicable disease and the aging population issues. Hawkes Bay is well set up with its range of talented physiotherapists to embrace the challenges ahead, take control of what we are good at, be proud of who we are and sell our worth to the public and funders.
People who contributed to this article: Jill Gandell, Sally Woodham, Ernie Boyes,, Raewyn Newcomb, Julie Ball, Tony Snell, Gary Sye, Kim Krekeler, Barb Gardiner, Di Mackie, Ann Ford- Anderson, Mrs Natusch.
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