Mobile COVID-19 test providers say 'we need more' to close service inequity for Māori, Pasifika

A major provider of mobile COVID-19 tests says more resources on the streets would help close the inequities of service for Māori and Pasifika. 

Mobile teams are helping to test Auckland's most vulnerable - many of whom don't own cars or computers. 

Parked discreetly up a driveway in Mangere, the mobile team from Whānau Ora Community Clinic prepared for the day's first job carefully donning personal protective equipment (PPE).

The predicament is a familiar one: the family staff members were visiting for a COVID-19 test don't have a car.

Whānau Ora Community Clinic Clinical Lead, Belle De Leon, told Newshub the reality is very different for many on the margins of society.

"It's really important for our service to go out there and reach out to them because they actually want to get tested, they just don't have the means to do that."

The test was all done in a few minutes and the next call was received by the team. 

In Papakura, the mobile testers went into an emergency housing village, where they met Whare Thompson, who explained he too had no transport and his phone was playing up. 

"So this is a cabin, campground, and I'm all on my own. I've got no vehicle at all," he told Newshub.

Thompson's son tested positive for the virus - but that's not the only anguish he's confronting. He recently lost his wife of 33 years.

"Get tested and get your vaccinations," he told Newshub. 

"The more security for your family, the more stress it takes off here [pointing to his heart]. In my situation, my wife passed away on September 2."

But due to his son's positive result, he's isolating. He can't grieve with those he loves, which he said was devastating. 

"There are others that have gone through this, but this is hell." 

Testing by the Whānau Ora team has given Thompson some peace of mind, with three negative results. 

The next job is to help test a woman who's recently given birth. 

The Whānau Ora mobile team gets case referrals from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) and do around 20 to 30 tests a day, mainly helping Māori and Pasifika families. 

It's long been known such groups are at greater risk during the COVID-19 crisis. But a member of the Whānau Ora Community Clinic mobile team told Newshub the overall pandemic response has not focused closely enough on the most vulnerable. 

"It's very generalised and not specifically catered for Māori and Pacific."

Her colleague Belle De Leon says ideally they'd have extra teams on the streets. 

"We need more mobile testing," she said. 

Because demand is great. The Whānau Ora team doesn't want anyone to feel they can't get help and want as many tested as possible - no matter what obstacles whānau face. 

And the team had a parting reminder for all Māori and Pasifika whanau: he tino kino tenei mate uruta - "this pandemic is serious". 

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins acknowledged that in hindsight, the response had been found wanting when it came to Māori and Pasifika. 

"Every COVID-19 issue that we've dealt with, with the benefit of hindsight, you'll find things that could have been done better," he said.

"Where the response can be sharpened up, we debrief, we look at that. Some of that actually happens in real time."