“Creative Thinking” crucial to ensuring self-isolation options are equitable for all

A current home isolation pilot initiative for those directly affected by the Delta outbreak is a model that will not work for most Pacific Island households, says Pasifika Medical Association (PMA) and Pasifika Futures (PFL) CEO, Debbie Sorensen.

The pilot initiative puts the onus on those infected with Covid-19 to be responsible for their own self isolation at their own homes. This pilot is an attempt to sustainably manage the use of MIQ facilities which are being inundated from both local and returning NZ residents from overseas.  

In an interview for RNZ’s Midday Report, Mrs Sorensen highlighted the housing divide the new home isolation trial emphasizes.

“Self-isolation at home is definitely an option for people who have facilities and housing that are suitable, but what we know for the Pacific community in particular is that we have very large families.

Often our families are living in houses that only have one bathroom, one toilet and we might have three or four people in one bedroom. Of course, this situation is not ideal for self-isolation.”

The option of isolating at home is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Mrs Sorensen says it further highlights the inequities that already exist and need to be addressed before the gap between “the haves and have nots” becomes too wide.

“We need to think a bit creatively about how we’re going to support these families and they need other options, given the load on the quarantine facilities. It’s really important that we’ve got multiple approaches to helping people isolate.

The inequity has become very stark; it speaks to a lack of suitable housing, overcrowding, and it’s really important that we get our community back to work.

Having people vaccinated, making sure people are [getting tested], but also addressing these longer-term issues of adequate housing for people and access for health services is really important.”

Listen to the full interview here.

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Date: Tuesday 2 November 2021