13 Aug 2020

Pasifika health official stresses importance of being prepared

5:12 pm on 13 August 2020

A Pasifika health boss in New Zealand is stressing the importance of mobilising medical and other resources to help equip Pacific communities and providers within those communities in case of a Covid-19 outbreak.

The call comes after a new spate of coronavirus cases in Auckland this week.

The Chief Executive of the Pasifika Medical Association and Pasifika Futures, Debbie Sorensen, said with reports of community transmission further spread of the coronavirus was possible.

"I think we all need to prepare. And we learned this lesson last time from level 3 and level 4. We have a community that doesn't have great resources sitting behind them. So it's really important that our community and our families prepare."

Sorensen said the effects of an outbreak in Pasifika communities could be catastrophic.

Debbie Sorensen.

Debbie Sorensen. Photo: Alex Perrottet / RNZ

She said the Prime Minister's announcement of the new cases would have caught many people by surprise.

But she said a move to alert level two was the right thing to do adding this was about the health of the country, communities and of families.

She said no one in New Zealand would want to be in the situation that people in Melbourne were in.

"If we do this right now, we will save lives, our communities will be safe," Sorensen said.

"And yes there will be hardship but we are used to hardship and we will come out on the other side okay."

Sorensen urged people to adhere to the government's health restrictions.

"If Pacific people don't follow the rules or maintain their social isolation. If we do not make sure that we wash our hands and keep ourselves safe, the implications are indeed serious," she said.

"And we're aware both here and overseas that if we did not pay attention, our communities will be disproportionately affected should this virus get out of control."

Sorensen has a bubble of 11 people and before leaving for work on Wednesday she said she made sure that everyone in the family understood that the grandchildren not go to pre-school.

"And that my 89-year-old mother was going to be looked after today. But also that she understood what was going on. That she didn't need to be fearful.

"Those simple things are important, that we reach out and check on our families and friends."

She said despite the lockdown, health professionals were easily accessible.

Pacific communities continued to face challenges due to the pandemic.

Sorensen said there was added pressure on families with some members not being able to work during the three-day lockdown.

"For those people who work for organisations and employers where they may not get paid, they will be facing hardship over the next couple of days.

"Families will need support."

New Zealand has an excellent health system in particular in South Auckland and West Auckland, she said.

"Today we are talking to our partners like SouthSeas Healthcare and West Fono who are aware of what's needed for our community and people know what's accessible.


... Photo: Supplied

"Both partners ran community-based assessment centres which helped people access testing."

The Pasifika Medical Association and Pasifika Futures are working with the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, the Counties-Manukau District Health Board and Auckland DHB to provide support to Pacific families.

Sorensen said they are also talking to Health Ministry officials and its Pacific Covid-19 advisory group to "ensure the government knows what Pacific families need, that they have the most up to date information" so they can release and co-ordinate resources that are required in the communities.