29 Jul 2021

UN boss in Fiji explains evacuation of worker with Covid-19

From Checkpoint, 7:18 pm on 29 July 2021

A UN official with Covid-19 has been evacuated from Fiji on a mercy flight after a u-turn from our health authorities.

RNZ understands the woman, who's seriously ill, will be treated at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital despite New Zealand initially refusing to let her in because of "capacity" issues.

In a statement, Ministry of Health said  Auckland's Medical Officer of Health approved a transfer plan for the patient, taking into account the safety of the UN worker and the crew transporting her - with strong protocols in place for the transfer.

The hospital system in Fiji is over-run with 1000 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours and 12 deaths this week.

There are 700 UN workers in Suva. The UN's senior official in Fiji Sanaka Samarasinha told Checkpoint it is a critical situation for the worker.

"We have a threshold in the UN system, it doesn't matter which country you're in, we do consider a certain threshold at which point we kickstart the medevac process.

Samarasinha said it is preferable to treat the person in the country they are currently in, but doctors determined it was necessary to get the woman care that is currently not available in Fiji.

"As we do normally, we start looking for places where the patient can be medevaced too... New Zealand has excellent facilities and are able to provide care, we're very grateful."

He said the decision was made purely on medical grounds and it wasn't one taken lightly. He said transporting a sick person comes with a certain risk.

"We are all very concerned. We are all rooting for her. We know her personally, she's a fighter. We just have to keep our fingers crossed.

"I'm really looking forward to a positive outcome."