Severe skin infections, diabetes and heart disease could be avoided if people just took better care of their health, says Dr Josephine Aumea Herman.
The Secretary of Health spoke out, after doctors called in a New Zealand air ambulance yesterday afternoon, to fly a 47-year-old woman to critical care hospital services in Auckland.
She had complications arising from diabetes and septic shock. Her illness was not Covid-19, the ministry said. The woman had needed urgent resuscitation on Sunday, but is now in a stable condition. The air ambulance was staffed by four intensive care doctors and nurses.
There were also two emergency flights to Pukapuka, to uplift three sick patients.
Health ministry Te Marae Ora is calling on people to seek medical care early if they feel unwell, to avoid costly overseas referrals.
Flying patients to New Zealand was more difficult and far more expensive, with only one commercial flight a week between Rarotonga and Auckland.
Doctors had noticed an increase in people delaying seeking medical attention and this was leading to further complications and increased severity of illness, Dr Herman said.
“This could be avoided if people took better care of their health or presented earlier to their nurses in their community health clinics.”
In March, Te Marae Ora relocated its general clinic from Rarotonga Hospital to Tupapa, to free up hospital wards in case Covid-19 arrives. At the time, the public was asked to avoid coming in to see the doctors and nurses if possible, and instead just phone for advice.
Yesterday, however, spokesperson Jaewynn McKay said people should now be getting checks. “Since the plea went out in March to avoid non-urgent visits to the hospital, 10 puna have been established around the island and people have been encouraged to visit these community health clinics.”
Herman said: “Our health system is experiencing increasing pressure to manage a wide range of complex health issues.
“Our communities can help us lessen this load by living healthier lives, eating wholesome healthier foods, moving more, taking their medicines ... and having regular checks with their nurse or doctor.”