An Auckland man with Covid-19 spent nearly a week isolated in his car because he couldn’t do it safely at home.
About 2,000 people with the virus live at home, and their supporters say the public health system is struggling to keep up.
Pasifika Futures supports hundreds of people with Covid-19, or their close contacts, both at home and in managed quarantine.
Executive Director Debbie Sorensen said they helped find the man who had been isolated in his car for six days, which was tricky because he had been moving around every day.
“What we did then was organize him to go to an accommodation that was safe, where he could stay in one place and be fed and cared for until he was free,” he said.
His situation was not unique, he said.
Many families, particularly those from the Pacific, lived in multi-generational households where it was difficult for people to adequately isolate themselves.
Some were in vans or garages.
Sorensen’s team had put dozens of people in motels and hotels because they couldn’t get into MIQ quarantine.
The system was becoming overwhelmed with the large number of cases, he said.
“There is a backlog of cases and sometimes when we contact families, they are already out of … their 14 or 12 days,” he said.
Last weekend they had 200 referrals for people to contact or help.
He was concerned that some people might go unnoticed because it took so long for public health teams to reach them or give them the support they needed.
“I am concerned that people will get seriously ill and end up in the hospital and … die,” he said.
“I am also concerned about the other social impacts, that people are confined to their homes under so much pressure.”
Papakura Marae Health Clinic conducts home visits for Covid-19 patients and GP Matire Harwood was seeing some of the anxiety firsthand.
He saw seven patients last week, gave them basic health checks and monitored their oxygen levels.
Many had been anxious about it and she wanted all patients to have access to a pulse oximeter, a device that measures oxygen in the blood, she said.
Most of the patients had symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath and loss of appetite, but some had other risks, such as a crowded house, which could mean that other people living there contracted the virus.
Public health personnel were largely good to deal with, but it was clear the teams were under pressure, Harwood said, and it took them two days to contact some of the people with Covid-19.
The clinic had proactively taken up visits to help patients, but that added to the rest of its work, including testing and vaccinations, Dr. Harwood said.
Health Director General Ashley Bloomfield acknowledged that the system was under pressure.
Most of the people with Covid-19 were quickly contacted, but some were not, he said.
Bloomfield said the Health Ministry was working to get more resources to help support and contact people who are home-isolated.
Harwood said that being cared for at home is suitable for many people, but that they must have the right support.
It was crucial that those who needed to go into quarantine to keep themselves or their families safe could get there quickly, he said.