Call for community vigilance
(Picture caption: Pasifika Medical Association member and GP in South Auckland Dr Maryann Heather.)
Samoan General Practitioner and Pasifika Medical Association (PMA) member Dr Maryann Heather says not much has changed for patients since New Zealand moved to level one to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Medical clinics and their staff continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, she adds.
Maryann works at the South Seas Health Centre in Otara, a clinic that continues to do most of their consultations over the phone and is still practicing social distancing guidelines despite the country coming out of lockdown and into level one in early June.
“Our people still have a fear of Covid-19. Being in lockdown for so long and then coming back to normal has made people hesitant,” Maryann says.
Virtual consultations are going to be the norm at South Seas Health Centre for a while, especially with recent new cases coming through at the border.
“We’re still trying to keep our community safe and getting the message out there not to be complacent.”
Elderly patients have embraced virtual consultations and many essential workers have appreciated the fact they do not have to take time off work to talk to their GP.
“This is beneficial because we are making sure we have safe practices and our patients are still getting their regular check-ups,” she says.
The South Auckland clinic serves many Pacific families and there has been a huge spike of individuals who have needed help for depression and anxiety – especially from those who have reached out for emotional support for the very first time.
“It was hard before but it’s even harder now.
“Many families are struggling, having lost their jobs and some families being forced to live with each other to save money – it is a struggle.”
It is important for the Pacific community to reach out for support if they are experiencing depression, Maryann continues.
A Pacific wellness programme offered by her clinic has been a blessing for those needing emotional support during these trying times.
“We’re fortunate in South Auckland we have this wellness programme, where we can connect people to support services and connect them with a psychologist.
“It is hard for our people to come forward with issues around depression, but they trust us because we already have that rapport and relationship.
“It’s easy for us to connect with them and guide them to the help they need.”
She says Covid-19 is far from over and the Pacific community must be applauded for how they have dealt with the crisis.
“The thing that normally brings our community together is our family support and our church communities.
“Even with the worst situations, our Pacific people can bounce back because we have that resilience.”