Associate health minister offers condolences for loss of unborn babies in measles 'crisis'

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter has offered condolences to the two women who lost their unborn children during Auckland’s ongoing measles outbreak.

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Health officials may not use the word crisis, but some of those on the front lines are saying otherwise. Source: 1 NEWS

"My heart goes out to those families, it's an absolute tragedy for any family to suffer a loss of a pregnancy," Ms Genter told 1 NEWS.

"I've experienced miscarriage myself and I just really feel for them. 

"It's awful."

Health officials in Auckland said last week the losses were classified as "serious complications potentially related to measles".

The associate minister was today visiting and thanking staff at Local Doctors Ōtara, a South Auckland walk-in clinic which has been bearing the brunt of the measles outbreak.

It's had 411 patients. Figures out today show as of Friday, there have been 1681 cases nationwide.

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Health authorities revealed today that five pregnant mums have been hospitalised with the disease. Source: 1 NEWS

The clinic’s director is vocal about the clarity of the messages given out so far.

"It wasn’t clear, no," Dr Oruba Khalil told 1 NEWS.

"When you talk to the patient you feel like they didn't understand what we are talking about," she said.

Dr Khalil said many thought the outbreak was only a problem for children, and didn't realise adults too needed to be vaccinated.

She told 1 NEWS patients were coming from homes with up to 20 people living in them.

Dr Khalil spoke of stretched resources and strained staff.

"At one stage we booked some car parks and we advised the people to stay in the car park. Sometimes we had to go to the front and announce to the people they have been in contact with cases," she said.

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Walter Orenstein spoke to Breakfast in the midst of a measles outbreak here. Source: Breakfast

"It was, I will say, really stressful for our staff. It wasn’t easy."

There's a word she uses to describe the outbreak which health officials have been reluctant to use.

"It was a crisis," she said. "I haven't lived through this crisis before, that's the first time.

"We have limited resources. At one stage we didn't have enough injections to give, so I think it was a crisis for us, for our patients," she said.

Ms Genter told 1 NEWS at the clinic that the outbreak had been "excellently handled" but also said there would be a review to see what could be done better or differently.

"We didn't get to herd immunity and that left us vulnerable in a time when there's been global outbreaks. That tells us that we need to work harder to achieve that herd immunity so it doesn't happen again," she said.

The associate minister said there will be further announcements soon on "what our actions will be in the future".

One suggestion put forward by health workers at the clinic today was to clarify the immunisation status of people before they are allowed into the country.

"We're seeing a lot of populations coming from overseas and we don’t have the immunisation records for them," Dr Richard Hulme from Tamaki Health told 1 NEWS.

"The outbreak has highlighted the need to tighten up that kind of information so it's available to officials," he said.

Dr Hulme told 1 NEWS there are still clear risks in the community.

"Just yesterday I had another family that'd come down with measles. The husband had come down with measles, the pregnant sister-in-law had been round, we don’t know her immunisation status.

"And all of a sudden we're going, 'My goodness, is this going to affect her pregnancy,'" he said.