The last few months have been amongst the toughest of the pandemic for Aotearoa, and our members have continued to go above and beyond to support their communities. Here are a few of your stories.
Longtime PSA member Lizzie Farrell came out of retirement to help with the Covid-19 vaccination effort.
She certainly had a lot to offer with more than thirty years of experience in public health nursing in South Auckland.
That’s especially considering her work included leading and managing many vaccination programmes including for Meningococcal B immunisation.
Lizzie says being involved in the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Pukekohe has been an enriching experience.
“It’s been very rewarding working for a Māori provider, Huakina Development Trust, and being able to work in my local community part-time and close to home.
“Hearing the stories of the elderly, their history and stories of vaccine preventable diseases such as whooping cough and diphtheria, as well as whānau history of the 1918 influenza pandemic.”
Lizzie has a simple message for anyone still making decisions about vaccination.
“Be careful of the misinformation out there, feel free to drop into a vaccination clinic to seek more information.”
AT THE HOSPITAL
Ensuring wards are safely staffed during the Delta outbreak has been a primary focus for Megan Barry, who is care capacity demand management co-ordinator at Middlemore Hospital.
It’s a high pressure role, which has also involved helping with staff vaccination bookings, and contact tracing following exposure events in the hospital.
“The work is changing day by day, so it’s difficult to plan,” Megan says.
As a PSA delegate, Megan has been supporting staff with working from home assessments and vulnerable worker assessments, attending MECA ratification meetings via Zoom, and most recently supporting members with vaccine mandate meetings.
“I guess to give a good picture of what we have been going through - take your typical workload as a delegate and triple it.”
Megan says Covid has also highlighted the importance of a good organiser and delegate relationship, as organisers haven’t been able to provide in-person support. “The members at our DHB have appreciated the support from delegates in person where this has been possible.”
After more than 20 years at the Nelson Marlborough DHB Public Health Service, Hilary Genet’s work has ramped up during the pandemic.
She traces people’s movements and provides information and support.
“Making sure people know about isolation and quarantine procedures, what that means for people in their households, when they need to be tested again, and daily follow-ups to make sure they and nobody else in the family have symptoms.”
The PSA delegate says it’s important to listen carefully to see if people have welfare needs that need to be escalated.
“We have situations where you have 12 people in a house, essential workers who have to get to work, they are under pressure from employers.”
Hilary says food is also a huge issue for many isolating families.
“They don’t have credit, access to the internet, they only have what’s in their pocket and if they all have to stay at home, they really rely on the good will of neighbours or family.”
Hilary stresses the importance of following public health advice.
“We are trying to protect other people from getting Covid so it’s really important that they stay at home as much as possible and follow the guidelines.”
SUPPORTING MĀORI VACCINATION
PSA Rūnanga Tuakana and Canterbury DHB delegate Lesley Dixon says Māori and Pacific NGO services in Christchurch have done an awesome job in encouraging people to get vaccinated.
“We in mental health services are supporting by discussing concerns with our clients around the vaccinations, providing transport and sitting with them during the waiting time if they still feel some anxiety,” she says.
“As a Māori PSA delegate supporting staff through this process, it has also been humbling sitting in with members when they talk.”
Lesley says vaccination has brought up feelings of powerlessness for some Māori.
“A feeling of being told what to do, colonisation and whakapapa kōrero and misinformation are affecting people’s decision making.
“However, management have been sensitive to people’s individual needs, provided lots of information, and counselling around helping people to make informed decisions.”
Fulltime Auckland Council delegate Martin Graham has been part of a working group formulating a vaccination policy for council staff.
It’s something all organisations are grappling with, and the PSA ran a survey of council members that fed into a submission on the policy.
“We went into this with the idea that PSA’s job is to ensure all members have a voice, in line with our values of democracy,” Martin says.
He’s also been fielding a tsunami of queries from members. “We’ve been explaining the importance of vaccination for health and safety, recognising the views of most staff who are vaccinated, and supporting colleagues who are hesitant or resistant.”
After months of lockdown in Tamaki Makaurau, many staff have transitioned to working from home relatively smoothly, although it’s been more challenging for frontline staff who interact with the public.
Support has been offered to those who are struggling through the employment assistance programme.
But by late November with the city gradually reopening, some people were feeling anxious about returning to the office.
“Some people have discovered they can work from home, so we are looking at how we can help if they want to continue. We’ve reached the digital future,” Martin says.
Thanks to all our members for your extraordinary efforts under extremely stressful circumstances this year.
For more information about vaccination go to www.health.govt.nz/covid-19-vaccines