Waitaha Canterbury Refugee Health Service Launched

Pegasus Health recently launched its Refugee Health Service, a confidential and free health service supporting former refugees access healthcare in Christchurch and Ashburton.

Lisa Brennan, GM Patient & Provider Services from Pegasus Health, emphasised the service’s community-based approach of building a service for refugees, with refugees.

“At Pegasus we aim to reduce inequity and remove barriers by having competent and well-funded wrap around services,” Lisa said. “The service is based on the feedback we received from the former refugee communities and those who support in health and social services. The service has set a national benchmark, expanding the eligibility criteria to include refugee groups beyond the annual quota refugees, ensuring broader access to health services, including for harder-to-reach populations.”

Ester Vallero (CALD Health Manager) and Sahra Ahmed (Refugee Health Service Team Lead), from Pegasus Health urged other refugee services nationwide to adopt this benchmark eligibility criteria, replicating the success achieved in Christchurch and Ashburton to benefit former refugees across the country.

Kimi Jackson, Hauora Maori Manager at Pegasus Health, shared a touching whakataukī at the launch, highlighting the challenges faced by former refugees who did not choose to leave their homeland.

Korihi te manu, takiri mai I te ata.

Ka ao, ka ao (The day has broken). Tihei mauri ora.

The bird sings, the morning has dawned.

The day has broken. Behold there is life.

Just like manu (birds) that are sure to sing when morning breaks, so does the life and everyday activities of all those that are here in Aotearoa. An appropriate sentiment to launch the service for those who are beginning again.

“What a wonderful service we have in our Refugee Health team to have Kaimahi that can help taurewa (refugees) create a life of their choice in a whenua that is new and not necessarily their first choice,” Kimi said.

Over the last five years, the Refugee Health Services team has grown from one to ten members. The team offers a confidential and free service for six months, or longer if necessary. The support includes help with general practice (GP) enrolments, guidance through initial GP appointments, interpretation services, and assistance in accessing various health services including pharmacies, labs, maternity care, optometry, dental care and other health related support as needed.

The Refugee Health Service marks an important step in supporting former refugees in their journey here in Aotearoa. For more details on the service, click here.