The Covid-19 testing facility in Ōtara town centre, Auckland, in 2020 (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
The Covid-19 testing facility in Ōtara town centre, Auckland, in 2020 (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

SocietyMarch 1, 2021

South Auckland DHB chief: NZ owes our people a ‘debt of gratitude’

The Covid-19 testing facility in Ōtara town centre, Auckland, in 2020 (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
The Covid-19 testing facility in Ōtara town centre, Auckland, in 2020 (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Another lockdown, another round of recriminations, but, as Justin Latif reports, the very region being blamed has also been at the forefront of keeping the virus at bay. 

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Rather than getting angry at South Auckland for the latest outbreak, people should remember how indebted they are to many in the region for keeping the virus at bay to this point, the head of South Auckland’s DHB says.

Counties Manukau District Health Board chair Vui Mark Gosche says the sterling work of the region’s border workforce and healthcare staff in keeping the pandemic contained shouldn’t be overlooked.

“Of the vaccinations done to date, 75% are from the Counties Manukau area, which gives you an illustration of how in every part of the system, whether it’s at the airport or in the health workforce, we lean a lot on the people of Counties Manukau. 

“New Zealand owes a debt of gratitude to these people, to the constant, ongoing work they do, without complaint. They just get on and do it.”

Vui Mark Gosche chairs both the Counties Manukau District Health Board and Kāinga Ora’s board. (Photo: Justin Latif).

He also singles out the local Māori and Pacific healthcare workers.

“You watch who’s doing the vaccinating and who’s doing the testing, and it’s almost always our Māori and Pacific workforce, right at the front lines.

“We owe a lot to them, as they do the jobs that others might baulk at, but there’s been no reluctance to get in and do that real frontline stuff that’s keeping us all safe.”

But the lockdown couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time, with planning well under way on the wider roll-out of the Covid immunisation programme. 

“We’re looking at where we can go to do mass vaccinations that’s in close proximity to our community but is separate to what’s being used at the moment. The DHBs are setting up a vaccination system, as we did with the Covid testing system, so it’s quite demanding on the senior leaders as they are also managing business as usual, which will be quite disrupted this week by the lockdown.”

Gosche says contingency measures are being discussed, however, to enable Auckland’s health workforce to get some respite by transferring staff from DHBs around the country. 

“Probably the greater need as this thing keeps on going is the people resource from the rest of the country. And that is something I know the CEOs in Auckland have talked to their colleagues in the rest of the country about.

“We have about 7500 staff across Counties and they have similar numbers at Auckland [DHB], so there’s a lot of people behind the scenes making sure the pieces of the puzzle are in place. Our HR people have been looking at the stresses and strains people are under, so it is something that we’re keeping an eye on.”

While it’s what you might expect the chair of a DHB to say, Gosche doesn’t hold back in his praise of his staff and the wider healthcare workforce. 

“We have a really great public health system in this country. Despite the fact it could do with a few more dollars, it does step up remarkably well, and that’s because of the quality of its people. And include in that not just the people we employ, but the staff in primary healthcare, community healthcare and Whānau Ora providers. I’m continually amazed at how resilient and dedicated our people are. 

“You get used to it, to a degree, but our gratitude has always got to be expressed.”

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