Māori covid home isolation deaths 'potentially preventable’ - report

By Will Trafford

A scathing review into the deaths of two Māori who were isolating at home with Covid-19 says their deaths were ‘potentially preventable’, with multiple warning signs missed and procedures not followed.

Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health conducted a review after the first death of a tāne Māori on November 3rd and the second two days later.

The review found there was a need for heightened focus on equity and cultural safety for Māori and Pasifika.

The most damning evidence centres on a five-day delay in the first person being contacted by Healthline. When he failed to answer calls, follow-up processes including contacting his whānau weren’t followed according to the report.

Beyond communication failures, significant symptoms such as one of the men ‘unable to continue a short phone conversation due to severe pain’, were also ignored by officials.

At the time of the second man’s death a care package from the Ministry of Health arrived via courier as his tūpāpaku was being carried to a waiting hearse. Whānau have slammed the Ministry of Health saying the man should have never been left to isolate at home.

Northern Region Health Coordination Centre Lead Fepulea'l Margie Apa says the organisation accepts the report’s findings.

‘We unreservedly accept the findings of the review and apologise to the whānau for the shortfalls in the response provided. We are grateful to whānau for providing input at such a difficult time’ she said.

‘It is clear that more could have been done and needs to be done. The main lesson is the need for improvement, which is what we are all committed to achieve.’ She added.

National’s new leader Christopher Luxon took the government’s managed isolation programme to task yesterday in his first full day on the job. Luxon argued those battling Covid-19 should be prioritised for MIQ spaces over double-vaccinated people returning from overseas who’ve received multiple negative tests.

‘We have New Zealanders suffering in home isolation with Covid, so if we took the people in MIQ facilities that are actually double-vaxxed with negative tests out, we could actually properly look after people who genuinely need support.’ He said.