Claud Switzer bids farewell to two local community icons

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The Claud Switzer Memorial Trust Board bids farewell to former Chairman Peter Dryburgh and Trustee Eric Shackleton. Picture/file

He’s one of the Far North’s most beloved icons and now the rest home has said goodbye to two equally famous board members.

Dr. Peter Dryburgh (Chair) and Eric Shackleton (Director) have both retired from their respective Board roles, after more than 30 years of combined service to the Claud Switzer Memorial Trust.

The Claud Switzer Care Residence in Kaitaia is the only nursing home in the Far North and has been welcoming local seniors for almost 70 years.

Dryburgh started as president in 2002, where he was also practicing as superintendent surgeon at Kaitaia Hospital at the time.

Originally from South Africa, Dryburgh worked in several countries as a surgeon before migrating permanently to Kaitaia with his late wife Diana and their three children in 1980.

Dryburgh said he was approached by former chairman Millie Srhoj, who was looking for a replacement when he retired from the board.

“The CSMT board has always had someone with a medical background as a board member,” Dryburgh explained.

“While I was very busy at the time in my other roles at Kaitaia Hospital, I realized it was an important role in the community and felt honored to be guest.”

During his tenure as president, the nursing home went through many changes, including the expansion of its dementia wing.

It also included the introduction of a more culturally inclusive model, to cater for the needs of koro and kuia Maori (older Maori men and women).

Dryburgh said after many years of service, now was the time to travel and take things down a notch.

He said it had been an honor to serve the Far North and was very proud of Claud Switzer’s ongoing relationship and engagement with the local community.

“This is a facility that belongs to the Far North community!” he said.

“The steady expansion of Claud Switzer has only been possible through the financial support of our community in the form of fundraising, donations and bequests.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has placed enormous strain on Claud Switzer, with staff shortages and additional costs.

“But we have the ability to weather the storms and achieve our goals of continuing to care for our elderly.”

Eric Shackleton was a board member of the Claud Switzer Memorial Trust for 11 years.

He is best known for owning and operating Shackletons Pharmacy stores in the Far North, as well as the Waitapu Estate Vineyard.

Shackleton said he was invited by former CSMT administrator and good friend Dr. Tom Young to join us.

As a pharmacist, Shackleton said he was able to bring his knowledge of medical items and prescriptions to his role on the board.

He said his experience on other councils like Hospice du Grand Nord had also guided him when trying to achieve certain goals.

“The lack of investment in aged care from the government often makes things difficult to achieve and means things have taken a long time,” Shackleton said.

“Every time we’ve tried to plan something, there have been various changes in building requirements or setbacks.

“I am therefore proud of what we have achieved at Claud Switzer, in particular our project to develop a residential village.

“This will prevent people from having to leave the community and be separated from their families.”

Shackleton’s decision to retire was due to personal reasons and a serious cancer diagnosis.

He said he really enjoyed his time with the other administrators and everyone involved with the nursing home.

“The other directors and staff were fantastic and we shared some great times,” Shackleton said.

“You really felt like you were supporting aged care and I think we’ve helped create a real long-term asset to our community, which is only getting bigger and better.

“I wish everyone the best for the future and hope everything goes well.”

Eddie Aicken has been the home’s secretary for nearly 40 years and said trustee leadership at Claud Switzer has been characterized by commitment and consistency.

Aicken said that during his tenure he saw the home grow from 19 to 91 beds and the role of trustee became increasingly demanding.

He said the previous council had steered the house through tough times and the new council would likely face even more challenges.

Reflecting on his time with Dryburgh and Shackleton, he said the pair had “very warm personalities” with whom he had spent many enjoyable occasions.

“Peter’s knowledge of the healthcare system has been indispensable, and Eric has extensive experience in leading organizations, so they can always be counted on to make a meaningful contribution to resolving difficult situations,” said Aicken said.

“Together they have over 100 years of professional experience in healthcare and decision-making that they have been able to contribute to Switzer to add to the collective wisdom that has characterized the life of the Switzer Trust.

According to Aicken, the nursing home’s growth was made possible by the generous and substantial financial legacy of the people of the Far North.

He added that Shackleton introduced the concept of inter vivos bequests, whereby donors could make their bequests during their lifetime and, in turn, enjoy the results of their generosity.

Claud Switzer Memorial Trust CEO Tina Mills has held the position for about two-and-a-half years and said the wisdom of Dryburgh and Shackleton 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 is greatly appreciated.

“The knowledge these two men share has been invaluable to Claud Switzer,” Mills said.

“Their understanding of medicine and health has been very important and the way they have been able to support us here in a holistic way has been exceptional.

“They both come from a pure heart and I learned a lot from them during my time here.”

Dryburgh and Shackleton were replaced by Dr. Kathy Bakke and current Far North Mayor John Carter was named the new president.

Aicken said between Bakke and Carter, their skills and knowledge were needed to replace what was lost with Shackleton and Dryburgh.

“John has years of leadership experience and Kathy has an in-depth knowledge of the complex medical issues facing Switzer management,” Aicken said.

“Continued trust depends on the efforts of many, but it especially depends on strong leadership.

“I am confident that the new generation of leaders that these appointments usher in will prove to be another important step forward.”

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