The Filipino community is grieving the loss of a young man who died before any way could be found to get him overseas for medical care.
Gerald Bertolano, 29, died at the Rarotonga Hospital. He needed specialised care including a CT scan, which is not yet available in the Cook Islands. Cook Islands Government last year budgeted $1 million to buy a CT scanner, but it has not yet arrived.
His employers, Pacific Resort, says he died of natural causes. He leaves behind in the Cook Islands his sister, Rizalyn Manayan.
Earlier this week, the Filipino community ask for public assistance, saying Bertolano was in critical condition and needed to be transported to New Zealand for medical attention. They acknowledged the uncertain times, but said they needed to fundraise to help Gerald and his sister. They kick-started donations with $1570.
The public donated funds to transport him, and Wigmores Superstore donated funds. Little Polynesian resort, part of the Pacific Resorts group, provided medical evacuation insurance coverage – but the Filipino community said they needed money as a guarantee to pay for his medical costs.
With the Covid-19 travel bans, there is only one flight a week to New Zealand, on Friday afternoons. Bertolano did not last that long.
Even if he could have been med-evaced on that flight, New Zealand is not admitting foreign nationals in its border lock-down.
Te Marae Ora said Bertolano would be buried in the Catholic cemetery in Panama. Unfortunately, sending his body home to the Philippines was not an option, due to the border closures.
Bertolano had worked at Little Polynesian Resort for the past 10 months, since arriving in Rarotonga last year.
Manager Nan Thompson said they had passed on their condolences to his family.
A funeral mass will be held for Bertolano this afternoon at 4.30pm at Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in Avarua.
Friend Michael Angelo Tolosa posted his thanks to all who had supported Gerald and his family.
“To all the Doctors and nurses who worked tirelessly at the Rarotonga Hospital, to his employer who supported him all the way, on behalf of his sister Rizalyn, we would like to express our heartfelt meitaki for everything that you gave.
“May the family be comforted in this time of sorrow.”