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Pasifika health services in Waikato hope Budget can alleviate strain

South Waikato Pacific Islands Community Services chief executive Akahere Henry (pictured right) says a budget increase to establish specialist health roles in the South Waikato would benefit her community. Photo: K’aute Pasifika Trust.
Aden Miles Morunga | Local Democracy Reporter

Pasifika health providers are hoping tomorrow’s budget addresses urgent social and health needs exposed by Covid-19 over the last two years.

South Waikato Pacific Islands Community Services (SWPICS) in Tokoroa have struggled to meet the wider needs of their communities and want the budget to ease accessibility issues.

Last year’s Budget committed $1 billion for long-term projects for Māori which includes The Māori Authority, but the Covid-19 pandemic laid bare enormous health inequities for Pasifika and Māori.

This year’s Budget has been dubbed a “Health Budget” which is giving hope to Pasifika health providers.

Akarere Henry, chief executive of SWPICS, says urgent action is needed to ensure accessibility of medical services for rural communities.

“Currently the gaps we have in our community are around access to specialist services and workforce. So any supports to enable us to, for instance, catch up with appointments that have been deferred because of Covid-19, can be provided by us,” she says.

Henry says housing and chronic health issues such as obesity, respiratory, heart and diabetes are prominent in South Waikato. Because of Covid-19, medical appointments have been deferred because of staff being deployed to focus on the Covid-19 response.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Pasifika health services in the South Waikato deployed the majority of its staff to assist vaccination and support efforts. Photo: Pasifika Medical Association Group.

SWPICS led vaccination efforts and support in South Waikato, partnering with the Ministry of Health to embrace Covid-19 vaccinators working under supervision (CVWUS). The partnership saw six local health care workers take on roles as Covid-19 vaccinators.

With winter setting in, Henry says the wider needs of the community must be prioritised in future, by either implementing specialised roles within existing health providers or delivering programmes to attract specialists to the regions.

“With the current health reforms, the locality approach will be beneficial to our community. The detail around this is still being worked through so any further increases of the health budget with targeted emphasis on mental health, chronic conditions and social determinants of health such as housing, are the priority for our community.”

While Henry awaits to see tomorrow’s Budget, Minister of Health Andrew Little had already announced community-based mental health crisis services would get $27.45m over four years.

“The emphasis of the funding is going on community spaces, so community places, residential places that support people who have been acutely unwell but don’t need to remain in a mental health board and can recover in the community.”

Little says the funding in Budget 2022 is focused on specialist services for those at the acute end of the scale.

“We know that community support for people who have been acutely unwell, and have got through the acute phase…is way more beneficial than keeping people in formal, very clinical hospital wards…”, he said.

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