20 Aug 2020

Auckland Covid-19 response: 'We need a Pasifika voice'

11:15 am on 20 August 2020

The chair of the Pasifika GP Network is calling on the government to ensure there is a Pacific voice on the new group overseeing testing at the country's border.

Dr Api Talemaitoga

Dr Api Talemaitoga Photo: GREG BOWKER VISUALS

Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern yesterday announced a small team to work with health officials running the testing regime.

It will be led by Heather Simpson, who recently did a review of the country's health system, and Sir Brian Roche, who led the review of PPE use.

But Dr Api Talemaitoga says for the group to be effective, meaningful Pacific involvement is vital.

"It's just an opportunity that I hope we do not lose, with 70 percent of the cases in the current cluster being of Pasifika decent."

"I think all the talk about equity, which seems to be the latest fashion accessory, needs to be put into practice and we need a Pasifika voice."

There needed to be a Pacific leadership with the current cluster, he said.

"There was no signalling to the Pacific community that yes, we care about you, you're very badly affected, you're coming up with good testing numbers but we will wrap around a service led by one of your own who can really go to the community and get the community together..."

Dr Talemaitoga says there's not a shortage of people who would be capable of taking on this role.

"This blindspot is a lost opportunity to get better culturally appropriate and sensitive advice during a pandemic."

If the government does not have a Pasifika person at the table when there is high rates among the community in the current cluster, it will be a big failure, he said.

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