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Pasifika community leader slams health system after horror Covid experience

A Pasifika community leader who shared his distressing experience with Covid-19 and MIQ last week has slammed New Zealand's health system, saying it's "killing" Pacific people who don't stand up for themselves.

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Tuala Tagaloa Tusani said if he took MIQ's advice last week, he or his partner may not be alive today. Source: Breakfast

Tuala Tagaloa Tusani shared his story in a 1News exclusive last week where he revealed he had to call for an ambulance himself to be treated for his Covid-19 symptoms after MIQ staff had advised him and his partner to take a panadol for relief earlier.

Tusani told Breakfast Thursday morning even after finally getting the medical attention he needed, it was still a longer wait for his partner.

"It was five hours for me to wait and a further six hours for my partner to wait," he said.

"That morning, I had to make a decision because I knew they wouldn't take her because she didn't have the energy to go to hospital so I had to go first and upon getting to the hospital, I had to fight to get an ambulance for her.

"At [8am] I called 111, and do you know what happened when I called 111? They have to call MIQ and check and confirm. She doesn't arrive at hospital until [2pm]. 

"My question is - is that acceptable?"

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With Pasifika making up around 74 per cent of the Delta outbreak, community leaders say language barriers and cultural misunderstanding are contributing to the problem. Source: 1 NEWS

Tusani, an essential worker and the chairman of the ASA Foundation, a charity that helps vulnerable families, said his experience opened his eyes to the current issues with New Zealand's health system.

"The thing that people don't understand is, as an Islander or as a Samoan is that, the hospital is the last place I want to be - no one wants to go to the hospital," he said.

"So when we are asking and calling for medical help, obviously it's serious. And for those who say, 'oh, it probably wasn't that bad,' - my partner was on a damn IV for three damn days. She was in hospital for five days and I was in hospital for eight days."

Tusani said what adds to his pain is that other Pacific families have contacted him detailing similar experiences.

"I've had a couple of phone calls and the thing is, at least I can voice my opinion and talk about myself but the two families who called me, they gave up," he said.

"When they said they wanted to give up, I had no answer. For the first time in my life, I was helpless and that's why I'm really angry - because there are many more of us in there suffering in silence."

That silence can't go on any longer, Tusani added.

"It's this Pasifika thing of being obedient," he said.

"We've got to stop being obedient because it's killing us. If I was obedient and I sat and took the panadol and waited with my partner in that room, based on the evidence of what we've survived now, I don't think both of us would have survived.

"So why should we be obedient anymore? We're tax payers - we're not asking for anything more what any other Kiwi is entitled to and we are told when we need help we call 111.

"So what do we do next if we can't ring 111 and we can't get medical help ourselves? Where do we go?"

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Pasifika Futures has teamed up with MIQ to provide for the care of families following complaints about their treatment. Source: 1 NEWS

Tusani said for the first time in his life, he felt his skin colour was a barrier.

"I'm not affraid to say that because I can't think of any other reason," he said.

"I even offered to pay for the ambulance but my money wasn't good enough, I wasn't good enough so the only thing I can think of is that the colour of my skin didn't match and it was a barrier to the help that I needed.

"No non-Pacific person would accept this kind of treatment."

And after his experience, Tusani had a simple but firm message for the Government.

"If you're going to preach kindness, if you're going to say we're a 'team of five million', maybe make some of us count as well, not just who they think the five million is.

"If we're good enough to be tax payers, all I'm asking for is the basics - nothing more, nothing less."

System not racist - Sio

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The Minister for Pacific Peoples says he doesn’t want to lay the Pacific community’s claims of inequities at the feet of health workers. Source: Breakfast

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio later told Breakfast the Government was "learning as we go" with the pandemic.

Sio said while he understands his community's belief of racism in the current system, he's not comfortable labelling the issue that himself.

“It’s certainly a view that has been expressed by Māori and Pacific and people who are disengaged from the system," Sio said. 

"And I agree there are elements of the system that are barriers and we can see that with the inequities.

"But I’m also very loathe to put that tag [of racism] on people who work in the system because from senior officials right through to on the ground level, you’ve got people who are very committed to this work.

"They’re doing the best they can under the circumstances.”