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Innovation Led The Way For Ethnic Care In The Community Hub

Hamilton Multicultural Services Trust found itself at the cutting edge of health care when its Settlement Centre became the Waikato’s COVID-19 Ethnic Care in the Community Hub.

There were 10 COVID-19 Care in the Community Hubs proposed for Māori, and one for Pasifika and Ethnic communities combined, when the Trust, on behalf of the sector governance group, proposed a stand-alone hub for the region’s ethnic communities.

“We understood Māori and Pasifika needs across the Waikato, however ethnic communities needed to be resourced effectively with their own hub,” says Ellie Wilkinson, Community Development and Support Manager, Hamilton Multicultural Services Trust.

As well as the Hamilton Multicultural Services Trust, the innovative hub’s sector governance group includes the Ministry for Ethnic Communities, NZ Police, NZ Red Cross, SHAMA Ethnic Women’s Trust, Refugee Orientations Centre (ROC) and the Women’s Organisation of the Waikato Muslim Association.

Waikato DHB Director Pacific Health Tamati Peni, who was involved with sector engagements says, “The DHB is privileged to build a meaningful relationship with our ethnic communities and support whānau, religious leaders and the sector to respond to the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.”

To set up the now 11 COVID-19 Care in the Community Hubs across the Waikato, the DHB pre-triaged its population to determine who has a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Risk factors include having an underlying medical condition, material deprivation and vaccination status while the priority populations include Māori and Pasifika.

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Once a person logs a positive COVID-19 RAT test, the DHB is able to check whether they need further support. Any health referrals come solely through the online forms sent to a person logging a positive test on My COVID Record, via 0800 222 478 or through hospital releases. Individuals will be self-isolating by the time they are referred to a COVID-19 Care in the Community Hub where they’re further assessed for their clinical and welfare needs. Clinical support includes daily hauora checks, RAT tests, free essential COVID-19 medications, liaison with their GP, disability providers, and ongoing risk-management. Any referrals for whānau not enrolled with a GP practice are connected to a practice to enrol.

Welfare requests to the Care in the Community Hubs can be self-referred, via Here to Help U, or from other agencies. Welfare includes cultural support, food, items for children, laundry, animal care, help with telecommunications, psychological support, and transport to an isolation facility or hospital, as well as assistance obtaining subsidised sick leave.

Ellie says the Trust’s Settlement Centre was able to pivot quickly to become one of the hubs as they had been running a vaccination clinic since mid-August 2021, and were already a DHB service provider using their systems. “We began our vaccination clinic because we wanted ethnic communities to engage with the vaccination programme.”

“We knew we needed to support our communities’ vaccination decision-making with information, and a key resource in doing that is our access to 150 interpreters across 60 languages as well as our own Health Navigators and Community Connectors who are from our ethnic communities.”

To reach their communities the Settlement Centre put leaflets, posters and flyers in several languages into local places, such as mosques, temples and ethnic food stores, and used their networks, particularly agencies such as English Language Partners and the Refugee Forum, as well as their monthly sector engagement meeting. “Our networks were key,” says Ellie. ‘We even shared health messages about keeping safe, wearing masks and being vaccinated to our dairy owners who then shared it with their communities.”

“When the first lockdown arrived our communities were hugely vulnerable,” says Ellie. “We saw real hardship, people were losing their jobs, couldn’t pay their rent, food and power, and families were cramming in houses together to cope financially.” The Trust now has funding for 2.5 Community Connectors, up from one, as well as a discretionary fund to help those facing severe challenges.

The Hub Manager has an operations meeting with the DHB first thing every morning from Monday to Sunday, and depending on capacity the two Ethnic Health Navigators are allocated COVID-19 clients.

“We are the only ethnic health hub so we are proactively engaging with our communities to support the DHB and GP clinics’ COVID-19 response. Our Health Navigators connect with people in the ethnic communities who are vulnerable or have underlying health needs and report back to the DHB team on the support required or provided.”

“We’ve done a huge amount of work to prepare ethnic communities for the Omicron outbreak, advising them to plan ahead with extra food supplies as well as having someone to drop groceries off and check on them.”

“Our Community Connectors are here to help those who don’t have support networks, may not be fully vaccinated, and with underlying medical conditions. One of the positives of the response to the pandemic is it’s shown the great mahi community organisations do on the ground, and the value in resourcing them adequately.”

Currently Māori have the highest COVID-positive rates at 31 per 1000 population, so it’s appropriate that the majority of the Care in the Community Hubs are led by local iwi and Kaupapa Māori organisations.

“Ongoing relationships built on trust, respect and reciprocity have been an essential part of our community engagement efforts throughout the pandemic, “says Maree Munro, Executive Lead Waikato DHB COVID-19 Directorate. “Waikato is a diverse region, and it has been essential to partner with local iwi, Kauapapa Māori and Pacific providers as well as local community trusts to ensure we achieve the best possible outcome for all whānau in those communities.”

The Care in the Community Hubs are:

Hub nameArea serving
Te Whare TaumarutangaNorth Ruapehu District TLA
PūtikiWaitomo District & Ōtorohanga District TLA (excluding Kawhia Moana)
Kāwhia MoanaKāwhia Moana: Tahaaroa / Marokopa / Kinohaku / Ōparau / Āotea (South) / Kāwhia Township
Pookekatia te IwiRaahui Pookeka / North Waikato
WaikatoWestern parts of Hamilton and up towards Nawton and Rotokauri
Kirikiriroa Pacific HubPasifika Community in Kirikiriroa and parts of Waikato, Waitomo + Matamata-Piako DC areas
Waikato DHBCentral Coordination Hub
Waikato Ethnic HubEthnic Communities throughout the Waikato DHB region
HaurakiThames-Coromandel District / Hauraki District TLA & Te Aroha
South WaikatoSouth Waikato District TLA
Ngāti HauāMatamata / Waharoa / Morrinsville / Waitoa / Tauwhare / Matangi / Tamahere / Pukemoremore

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