Ricky Boaza is one of the nurses posted out to the 10 puna around Rarotonga, responsible for managing the community’s health needs at a local level.
As the population is increasingly locked down to their homes, it is health professionals like Boaza who will be the face (or facemask!) of the government response, going door-to-door to help those in need.
Boaza is now based at the Nikao/Panama puna centre. Already, he and another nurse are organising medication refills and giving advice to people as needed.
Boaza was born on Rarotonga of Penrhyn descent, but raised by his grandfather on the island of Atiu. He never even planned to be a nurse, but his parents told him that was where he was needed.
“What can you do when your parents say this is what you will do,” he laughs. “When they say it, that’s it, you just listen and do as they say.”
The first time he saw human blood, Boaza almost fainted – but his no-nonsense nurse supervisor made him push on through. “I got through it and I’m glad she made me do it, now look, I’m used to it.”
Over the years he’s worked around the Pa Enua.
He’s just returned to Rarotonga from Penrhyn, after completing a “very quiet, relaxing” three-year contract.
Now, as of this week, he’s on the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis.
He’s pleading with the vulnerable and elderly to phone him on 0800 1806, rather than leaving their houses: “Please, stay put in your homes, and do not visit the centre.”
He believes there is a great deal for everyone to learn – and the nurse who once fainted at the sight of blood is now unafraid. “This is a challenge to all of us to see whether we are being compliant to directions given and doing exactly what we have been told to do,” he says.
“Be on the safe side, listen – and be prepared.”