The ceremony was attended by health minister Nandi Glassie and New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands Peter Marshall, as well as New Zealand visitors representing the Masterton South Rotary Club and Rotary International.
“This is one of those special, momentous occasions for the people of the Cook Islands,” said Glassie. “This bus will improve the lives of our children, adults and the population of the Cook Islands.”
Praising the “generous support” of the Rotary Club both in New Zealand and on Rarotonga, Glassie noted that their support also extended to the training of drivers for the bus, with eight public health staff having been trained over the past few weeks by New Zealand trainer Sean Kenny.
“I was going to volunteer to drive the bus seeing as I’ll be unemployed soon – but I was beaten to it!” laughed Glassie, who recently lost his seat in the general election.
The bus was donated by Tranzit bus company director Paul Snelgrove – who is also a member of the Masterton South Rotary Club, and cost $171,000 to renovate and equip at his New Zealand workshop.
Snelgrove outlined some of the bus’s notable features, including its air conditioning, suspension “suitable for island roads”, and impressive battery power.
He explained that the vehicle and all the medical equipment inside can be operated for three days off the batteries alone. “So should the island ever be unfortunate enough to suffer a catastrophe, that vehicle would make an ideal command centre.”
Rarotonga Rotary Club president Mark Boyd said the mobile health clinic was “going to be amazing”.
“It can get to the elderly, the schools, Red Cross can use it for their blood drive, men’s health – and the biggest thing is actually getting out to the clinics as well,” said Boyd.
“At the moment the district nurses are going out on a motorbike with their equipment, so it’s just going to make things a lot easier for them. They can just take the bus, plug it in – and they’ve got everything they need right there.”
Ministry of Health promotion manager Karen Tairea agreed, saying the bus would be a “great, great help” for going out into the community.
“That bus will be used when we’ve got major programmes going,” she said. “For example, when we do mass-dose immunisation in the schools, then the bus will be used. When we do an examination of school students, the bus will be used, and we’ve got our rheumatic heart disease screening programme in September, so the bus will be used for that as well.
“We’ve also got the Vaka Eiva, and there’s the rugby tournament, so the bus will be stationed there also. In the past we’ve put up a marquee or asked for a room somewhere where we can operate from, but now we can just drive the bus up.”