Samoan GP and PMA member Dr Maryann Heather says not much has changed for patients since the move to Level 1, as people and medical clinics continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Dr Heather works at the South Seas Health Centre in Otara, a clinic that continues to do most of their consultations over the phone and is still practicing social distancing guidelines despite the country coming out of lockdown and into Level 1 more than two weeks ago.
“Our people still have a fear of Covid 19. Being in lockdown for so long and then coming back to normal has made people hesitant,” she says.
“For us, virtual consultations are going to be the norm for a while, especially with these new cases coming through. We’re still trying to keep our community safe and getting the message out there not to be complacent.”
She says elderly patients have embraced virtual consultations and many essential workers have appreciated the fact they don’t have to take time off work to talk to their GP.
“This is beneficial because we are making sure we have safe practices and our patients are still getting their regular checkups.”
Her South Auckland clinic serves many Pacific families and there’s been a huge spike of individuals who have needed help for depression and anxiety – especially from those who have reached out for emotional support for the very first time.
“It was hard before but it’s even harder now. Many families are struggling, having lost their jobs and some families being forced to live with each other to save money. It’s a struggle.”
Dr Heather says it’s important for the Pacific community to reach out for support if they are experiencing depression. A Pacific wellness programme offered by her clinic has been a blessing for those needing emotional support during these trying times.
“We’re fortunate in South Auckland that we have this wellness programme, where we can connect people to support services and connect them with a psychologist.
It’s hard for our people to come forward with issues around depression. But they trust us because we already have that rapport and relationship. It’s easy for us to connect with them and guide them to the help that they need.”
She says Covid-19 is far from over and that the Pacific community has to be applauded for how they’ve dealt with the crisis.
“The thing that normally brings our community together is our family support and our church communities. Even with the worst situations, our Pacific people can bounce back because we have that resilience.”
Date: Thursday 25 June 2020