South Auckland healthcare providers say a $140 million Government Omicron support package for Māori and Pasifika will allow them to “hold the line” against Covid-19, as case numbers surge.
The funding was announced on Tuesday at the Ngā Whare Waatea Marae in Favona.
The package includes almost $40 million for Māori and Pacific health providers to enable them to scale up their operations, and $40.6 million for the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency for wraparound and holistic services.
There is a further $18 million for the Pacific Aotearoa Community Outreach Initiative (PACO), led by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, and $40.05 million to build on the Māori Communities Covid-19 Fund (MCCF), administered by Te Puni Kōkiri.
The team from the South Seas Healthcare Trust has been on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19 since it first arrived in the country in 2020, helping to deliver the vaccine roll-out in south Auckland and operating testing centres.
Chief executive Silao Vaisola-Sefo said the Government’s support package came as Covid-19 case numbers in south Auckland were growing daily due to Omicron and they needed all the help they could get.
“This funding will allow us to hold the line for a little bit longer,” Vaisola-Sefo said. “It’s really welcome and it will enable providers like us to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
He said it hadn’t been easy for the South Seas team to handle the growth in demand for its services.
Vaisola-Sefo said since April last year the trust had provided 104,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses, while its testing teams had carried out 72,000 swabs.
“Over the last couple of years we’ve really had to think outside the square.”
His thoughts were echoed by Turuki Healthcare CEO Te Puea Winiata.
“I think it’s fantastic and really timely,” she said. “This funding will allow us to work through Omicron.”
Winiata said it was great to see the package included support for wrap-around services, including social assistance, that many providers had been delivering over and above healthcare.
The Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson said the funding was needed to recognise the hard work being done by both Māori and Pasifika healthcare providers in areas like south Auckland, which had borne the brunt of Covid-19.
“Nobody knows how to get to our people better than the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency and our own health providers,” Jackson said.
And he said their work in the public health response to Covid-19 needed to be acknowledged.
Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chief executive John Tamihere said during the pandemic Māori and Pasifika healthcare and social providers had more than delivered.
He said whether it’s Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust in West Auckland, or South Seas Healthcare Trust out south, they had all been working tirelessly on the frontline to get people vaccinated and supporting their communities.
“Reinvesting in our capacity works and we’ve seen that throughout the pandemic,” Tamihere said.
“We’ve shown we have the capability and, more than that, the ability to scale up our operations when needed.”