17 Mar 2020

Māori health providers set up communication hub to combat covid-19

11:46 am on 17 March 2020

Māori health providers have set up support phone lines and isolation rooms incase Covid 19 spreads to their communities.

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Director of Te Kōhao Health clinic in Hamilton, Lady Tureiti Moxon, says arming whānau with the right information is crucial to containing the outbreak. Photo: Supplied

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui kaiarataki and Māori Party candidate Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has been making hand sanitiser to distribute to local families, after stores in Hawera ran out on Monday morning.

The rūnanga run a family health care practice that provides primary health services to over 9000 people in the area.

Ngarewa-Packer said they have set up a centralised communication hub and helpline (0800 782 684) after being inundated with calls from whānau wanting information.

They have also set up two isolation rooms for any suspected cases.

"We've also been inundated with a lot of requests to help, a lot of names for volunteers and how we will tautoko our kaumātua, so we've been taking names and we've identified our vulnerable, including our kaumātua, and how we have a roster to be able to check for them," Ngarewa-Packer said.

"This is all preparing in case of ... but experience has taught us that if we aren't prepared we are the people who are hurt the most."

Director of Te Kōhao Health clinic in Hamilton, Lady Tureiti Moxon, said arming whānau with the right information was crucial to containing the outbreak.

"What we will be doing is making sure that in our clinics that we have got proper signage and support lines when they need help. It's such a deadly virus that we really have to take it seriously, we can't carry on doing what was consider to be our normal."

"The inequalities between Māori health and Pākehā health has been well known and well documented for a long time, it is actually going to get worse for them because they will get hit harder, particularly during winter, they're in cold houses, money and income [not] coming into the house, there's no food - there's all these considerations."

Public Health Doctor Dr Rhys Jones.

Senior lecturer in Māori health, Rhys Jones Photo: Supplied

University of Auckland senior lecturer in Māori health, Rhys Jones was also concerned about the risk posed to Māori if they became infected.

"Māori tend to have higher rates of chronic diseases that put you at higher of getting a serious outcome of Covid-19 so things like heart disease, underlying lung diseases, diabetes," Dr Jones said.

"Compounding that is the fact that there are inequities in the health system, Māori already face barriers to accessing the healthcare system and that's only likely to get worse and be exacerbated by this pandemic."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has asked for indoor or outdoor gatherings of 500 or more people to be cancelled.

This will likely affect upcoming kapa haka regional competitions, which attract thousands of spectators.

Already Te Hui Ahurei a Tūhoe has been cancelled.

Up to 15,000 people were expected to attend the biennial festival in the Bay of Plenty community of Waimana this Easter weekend.

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