An Eastern Bay of Plenty Māori health provider is considering helicoptering the Covid-19 vaccine out to isolated communities.
Whakatāne-based Te Puna Ora o Mataatua had administered more than 3400 doses of the vaccine at the start of this week.
Bay of Plenty DHB's Trevor Richardson and Rachel Shouler. Photo. RNZ/Jean Bell.
Calls for more Māori vaccinators training pathways
Te Puna Ora o Mataatua's Lee Colquhoun called for a Māori vaccination trainer to be based in the Eastern Bay.
He says their staff spent six weeks on the DHB's wait list before going through the University of Auckland's Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) to learn how to administer the vaccine.
"Unfortunately, the speed through the DHBs and Ministry of Health means we're never going to have the workforce. It's good we've got [IMAC] really making it fast and adaptable to suit the needs."
He says it's important for vaccinators working in the rural areas to speak te reo and ideally whakapapa back to the region.
Shouler says the DHB is aware of the need to train vaccinators quickly, especially as the rollout was set to widen to the general population on July 28.
"We're trying to pull vaccinators from wherever we can, but there isn't just a pile of nurses out there waiting for a job. The Eastern Bay's health sector is really short of staff across the board," Shouler says.
She says recruitment can be time-consuming and slow, but the DHB had tried to speed things up. This was not helped by the Covid-19 vaccine being a clinically complex jab to deliver.
"We don't want to be cutting corners, just for the sake of getting vaccinations out there, then find we're doing them in an unsafe way."
The Bay of Plenty DHB's Covid-19 incident controller, Trevor Richardson, says there are not enough Māori nurses on the ground.
But he says the health sector has been forced to work on the fly in the midst of the pandemic.
"It's felt like we've been building the plane while flying it."
Shouler says the DHB is looking at multiple options for increasing the number of Māori vaccinators, while not depleting precious staff from other roles.
This included recruiting Māori health staff from other organisations, then backfilling the vacant positions with other staff.