30 Sep 2021

Covid-19 team helps Auckland families frightened of being tested

6:34 am on 30 September 2021

A Covid-19 testing team working with families in emergency housing says many are frightened about being tested and the possibility of being separated.

The Fono mobile testing team lead Janet Masoe, with team members.

The Fono mobile testing team lead Janet Masoe-Hundel, with team members. Photo: Supplied

Janet Masoe-Hundel from The Fono health provider in Auckland leads a team that visits close contacts of cases in their homes to take swabs.

They bring lollies to encourage children and spend time listening to and easing the worries of their parents, many of whom are already struggling.

The Ministry of Health is to focus testing on about 40 transitional housing facilities in Auckland, saying many people at this end of the outbreak have high needs and are living in emergency or temporary social housing

Ninety percent of those visited by Masoe-Hundel and her team from The Fono Pacific health and social services provider in the past week fitted that bill.

Many were being tested because a family member was already positive and were already self-isolating, sometimes in crowded conditions and unsure how to get food.

"They've experienced hardship already but they're going through even tougher times. We're trying to support them as best we can," Masoe-Hundel said.

Families were often worried when the testers came calling , like the young family with six children under 10 who feared being split up.

"There is a lot of hesitation, there's a of reluctance there, because these people have heard stories from their friends or families of when there is a positive case in the family, that person is taken out to isolation," she said.

"If the mother is removed from a house of 10, 15, what does that do to their household?"

Another person, in an apartment building, was embarrassed to come down because the team had to do the test outside in full PPE and everyone could see them.

Others had seen social media posts exaggerating how bad the nasal swabs were.

The Fono mobile testing team lead Janet Masoe, right, and team members.

The Fono mobile testing team. Photo: Supplied

Masoe-Hundel and her team were able to convince most to get a test, even it took coming back the next day.

A kind word and taking time to listen and answer their questions was usually what it took, she said.

"And we now bring lollies and things to give to the kids so they get them when they do their test," she said.

The few they couldn't convince were referred back to health authorities.

The team also worked with each family they tested to see what help they needed, often referring them to other services the Fono offered, like mental health support or food parcels.

It was a good chance to offer wraparound help, she said.

"These families, although they have very complex living situations and family situations, they still are very, very nice and welcome us into their homes. It's a good feeling for us," she said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs