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Pasifika struggling to get admitted to hospital despite severe Covid-19

Aucklander Tuala Tagaloa Tusani has Covid-19 and, at one point, was struggling to breathe. 

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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

He’s now recovering in Auckland City Hospital but he told 1News getting admitted was a difficult process — and not just for him. 

“I have heard from two people that want to give up … not all of us are strong up here [mentally] to cope. But, when we are continually denied access to hospitals ... and then you discharge us, you giving us no chance,” Tusani said. 

Tusani and his partner were previously admitted to Middlemore Hospital. They were then discharged and had to return to the Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie quarantine facility.

It was here that things began to go downhill rapidly for the respected community figure. Tusani is an essential worker and the chairman of the ASA Foundation, a charity that helps vulnerable families. 

Tusani said he was in a “lot of pain” because of the virus, and he couldn’t sleep because of his headache and his temperature. He and his partner both began having trouble breathing.

“You just feel like your body is about to explode.” 

He said he then tried to call staff at the quarantine facility to ask for help. He said he was told to use Panadol. 

“I say, ‘I don’t need a Panadol. I need an ambulance now. I need doctors.’”

Tusani called for an ambulance himself and was finally taken to hospital. But, hours passed before his partner was allowed to go as well. 

“She collapsed when she arrived [to the hospital], and they think a Panadol is going to fix that?” he said.

The Pacific Leadership Forum is asking the Ministry of Health to urgently investigate why people who are distressed and have contracted Covid-19 are being blocked from getting to a hospital. 

They say language barriers and cultural misunderstanding are contributing to the problem, and they know of others who had been treated in a similar way to Tusani and his partner.

“It shows the system is starting to fail. There is a fatigue in the system right now and that is the concern with the huge number of our Pacific people going in,” Pacific Leadership Forum chairman Teleiai Edwin Puni said.

About 74 per cent of cases in the latest Delta outbreak are Pasifika. 

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the threshold someone would have to reach to be hospitalised with the virus “is reasonably high”. 

“So, the fact that someone is unwell with Covid-19 doesn’t necessarily mean that they would justify being sent to a hospital,” he said.

1News Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver said many Pasifika are taught from a young age not to challenge authority. 

So, when they’re told by health professionals they would be fine, some people may not speak up despite their symptoms, Dreaver explained.