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Uplifting . . . Pacific community health link worker Uinita Tapaatoutai has been helping Oamaru’s Pacific Island community navigate the health system. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Through supporting others, Uinita Tapa’atoutai has also supported herself.

Last February, Mrs Tapa’atoutai started a six-month contract as a Pacific community health link worker, helping Oamaru’s Pasifika community access primary and secondary health care services, and navigate the healthcare system.

The position, funded by WellSouth and supported by the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group (OPICG) and Oamaru Hospital, was so well received Mrs Tapa’atoutai’s contract was extended for another 12 months.

Mrs Tapa’atoutai, who worked as a healthcare assistant at the Oamaru Hospital, spent the first few months networking and building relationships with local general practitioners, and healthcare providers in the district.

Most people Mrs Tapa’atoutai helped were self referrals of all ages, who had heard about her work through the OPICG. She acted as a ‘‘middle person’’, taking people to their appointments, researching their needs, and connecting them to the right people.

‘‘Many Pasifika people don’t understand the health system really well, so I can connect them with other agencies that they really need,’’ Mrs Tapa’atoutai said.

Her role was important for providing information to the Pacific Island community for them to make the best decision for their health needs.

‘‘It’s good for them. The more informed they are, the more they can weigh up their decisions.’’

In return, the role helped general practitioners gain a deeper understanding of how to best treat Pasifika patients. Specialists from Dunedin had also reached out to Mrs Tapa’atoutai for support.

‘‘I help bring them together in order for [the patients’] health needs to be met.

‘‘I can see since I started this role . . .those practitioners, most of them have challenges in engaging with Pasifika people and with the support in this role, I support them with their work.’’

It also helped Mrs Tapa’atoutai gain knew skills.

‘‘It’s like building up my confidence. For me I’m not that [out there] person . .. but with this job, this role is very rewarding.’’

Over the coming months, Mrs Tapa’atoutai would be working on putting some new initiatives in place and continuing to help her community navigate the healthcare system.