Meatworker becomes community Covid-19 swabber

By Tamati Tiananga

A seasonal meat worker at Affco in Horotiu, Taitimu Maipi Jnr has swapped the butcher knife for a swabbing stick.

Maipi, who has lived in Huntly his entire life, is one of eight swabbers for Waahi Whaanui Health, working at the Te Whare Oranga pop-up testing station.   

Maipi says, "I haven't had any negative feedback from the way I swab and it's all about the technique. If you can swab a kid that's screaming and crying with snot in the nose, you can swab anybody".

"I was at Horotiu for two years and my role was knife-hand. But this job [swabbing] is more than just a job. I wake up ready to go, I am really passionate about this job, knowing that I'm doing something for my whānau," Maipi says.  

For months Waahi Whaanui nurse Justeena Leaf searched for locals, seeking enthusiastic, compassionate and committed team players. One of the successful candidates is local kohanga reo coordinator Te Rukenga Awa.

"We don't have enough doctors, we don't have enough Māori nurses, we don't have enough of everything," Leaf says. "So we have to get proactive just like on the marae and get someone on the paepae and in the kitchen. It's the same here in the Covid-19 space."   

"Many locals, now that they know we are here swabbing, they have been requesting us to swab," Te Rukenga Awa says.. 

On Monday the Ministry of Health confirmed one case in the Huntly community. Leaf says introducing new members to the swabbing team came at a good time to provide extra support.  

"We know whānau are scared to come to get tested or they want to wait until we're in the clear from Covid-19 positive but we will go to their homes to swab them," Leaf says.