Supporting our Pacific neighbours

Based in Middlemore Hospital, Counties Manukau Health has a dedicated team of nurses and support staff – the Regional Pacific Health team – who work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to deliver health services to our Pacific neighbours as well as those referred to New Zealand for medical treatment not available in their home country. The overall aim is to strengthen the capacity of their health systems. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the team quickly adapted to new ways of working, including providing telehealth appointments and helping with setting up the appropriate technology for online training and appointments. Find out a bit more about this work:

Overseas Referral Scheme (ORS)

Arieta Fa’apesolo Mu’aulama, Nurse Case Manager

The ORS provides specialised medical treatment in New Zealand for patients living in some of the Pacific Islands where treatment is not available in their own countries. For many, this is lifechanging and even lifesaving. Every year on average, approximately
60 people from the Pacific Islands come to New Zealand with the majority accessing healthcare at Counties Manukau Health.

The impact of COVID-19 border closures has resulted in patients and their families unable to get home since March. The team manages the whole process from engaging with the
family to sourcing the specialists, including working with the host families in New Zealand.

“It is a huge job but extremely rewarding. I have been privileged to fly up to the Pacific Islands to help bring the patient to New Zealand safely. I am not allowed off the plane and wear full PPE to receive the patient,” says Arieta Fa’apesolo Mu’aulama, Nurse Case Manager.

Visiting Medical Specialists (VMS)

Urologist Jonathan Masters undertaking surgical tuition

Before COVID-19, the team supported on average 10 nurses, doctors and/or allied health professionals per month flying to the Pacific Islands to provide specialised medical treatment as well as training to local healthcare professionals. Currently (with borders closed and no flights) the team is supporting clinical staff using technology to undertake case reviews, consult and mentor.

Strengthening in-country capacity and capability (SCC)

The late Alen Prokopis, Operations Manager Cleaning, on his second visit to Kiribati in February 2020

The team strengthens and builds in-country capability. Training occurs in areas such as workforce development, antimicrobial and infection prevention and control and cleaning (see photo), biomedical support, service-specific development such as emergency medicine, paediatrics, mental health and/or theatre work. COVID-19 has seen the fast tracking of technology to support our Pacific neighbours’ network and provide a new and different way of working.

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