PACMAT to deploy primary care & mental health team to Hawke's Bay region
Updates / News, 20 Feb 23
Pasifika Medical Association (PMA) is set to deploy a Medical Assistance team (PACMAT) to Hawke's Bay this week, specialising in primary care, psychosocial and mental health support – an essential service as the region continues to deal with the impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle. This decision comes after a smaller PACMAT team carried out an initial needs assessment in Napier, Hastings and Gisborne over the weekend.

PACMAT Clinical Director, Dr Kalo Lalahi-Jermyn, was part of the recent deployment to the Hawke's Bay and says mental health is a key concern in the region. 

"Key observations from our assessment is that there's a high need for mental support. People are expressing distress at what has happened to them and there's some language gaps around people being able to express themselves fully and a have a conversation, so that is a key focus for us. 

The PACMAT team will support and provide opportunities for people to talk if they need to and to identify anyone who's suffering from acute distress." 

The PACMAT team will feature team members who can speak Tongan, Niuean, Samoan, Kiribati and Fijian. PMA Chief Executive, Debbie Sorensen, reiterates the importance of having a language speaking team as part of the deployment.  

"With all of our deployments, we always make it a priority to ensure that we have people within the team who speak the language of the communities they are serving. We refer to this as our superpower; if people feel more comfortable or can better express themselves in their language, we make it a priority to accommodate that." 

She further adds that the team is prepared to help where needed. 

"The effects are long term so it's incredibly important that there's a space for affected communities to receive urgent mental health support as they continue to navigate the impacts of the cyclone on their livelihood. 

Our PACMAT team has also seen the need for primary health care support on the ground, so we are sending a General Practitioner with the team to provide medical aid, as well as nurses who can carry out Covid-19 and Measles vaccinations if needed."  

PACMAT is looking to deploy as soon as tomorrow (Tuesday 21st February 2023).  

"Our team is ready to help and support those on the ground who have already been working hard and doing brilliant work since the devastation of the cyclone," says Mrs Sorensen.