Covid-19: Positive patient from Fiji being allowed into New Zealand for hospital care

A Covid-infected patient from Fiji is being flown to New Zealand for hospital treatment – despite an earlier decision to decline the transfer.

The Herald understands the patientinvolved is a high-profile World Health Organisation staffer based in the Covid-struck island nation.

They are due to board a special flight that is set to arrive in Auckland later this afternoon, before they are transferred to a local hospital.

The transfer comes after the Ministry of Health said earlier this week that a formal request for a person in Fiji to be moved to New Zealand for treatment had been declined on clinical grounds.

“A planned air transfer of a patient with Covid-19 requiring hospital-level care has been declined following advice from the intensive care unit directors of the three Auckland metro [district health boards] that, given the other commitments, there is no sufficient capacity to currently take the patient.”

The ministry confirmed to the Herald that the approval follows an agreement by the metro-Auckland DHBs to treat the patient.

It is understood that the patient works for the WHO, but the ministry said it was bound by privacy considerations.

The Herald first asked the WHO on Tuesday to confirm that the patient worked for them.

Health officials in this countrysaid a transfer plan was also approved by a medical officer of health from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service and agreed to by NZ Air Ambulance Service.

“The plan takes into consideration the safety of both the patient and the crew who will be transporting the patient.”

The ministry acknowledged that the three district health boards were currently working in “an extremely busy and dynamic environment” due to higher than normal reports of winter illnesses and RSV.

“The receiving hospital is yet to be confirmed and will be determined by the treatment required by the patient and the capacity in the respective ICUs.”

The decision is one that at least one leading Pacific health leader is not happy about.

'I think it's unacceptable' – Pacific health leader

Today’s statement also said that the approval comes after a request for specialist treatment here in New Zealand.

“Requests for medical treatment in New Zealand from overseas jurisdictions, particularly in the Pacific, are common. Every request is considered, carefully taking into account factors such as the clinical needs of the patient, whether safe transport can be arranged and the availability of care in New Zealand.”

At least one leading Pacific health leader is not happy about.

Pacific health leader Dr Collin Tukuitonga said he understood that the Covid patient has the highly dangerous Delta variant of the virus.

If New Zealand really wanted to help, more medical staff should be sent to Fiji to help train and support those on the ground dealing with the situation there – not bringing the patient to New Zealand.

“We’re trying to keep the risk out. We can’t totally predict what the Delta variant will do. I think it’s unacceptable.”

The decision to bring the person to New Zealand for treatment also now sets a precedent.

“I understand he is a Fijian national working for the World Health Organization. Why is he being singled out over the many other equally deserving people there?

“How do we then decide who to accept who to take and who not to take?”

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