The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP) is today mourning the loss of former Cook Islands prime minister Dr Joe Williams, who College President Dr Samantha Murton says was a pillar of the Pasifika community and a long-serving Auckland GP.
“Joe Williams was an example of the essential role GPs play in their community every day, but even more so during a pandemic like COVID-19,” says Dr Murton.
“While New Zealanders have rightly self-isolated and been practicing social distancing, GPs choose to stay fighting on the front line like Dr Williams did,” she says.
Dr Api Talemaitoga, RNZCGP Pacific Chapter Chair, says Dr Williams was highly regarded and much loved amongst his peers, patients and community.
“There will be many people saddened and in shock today, after learning Dr Williams is no longer with us. He had a full and rewarding life. Not only was he a great leader and mentor to many of us, he was very humble and deeply connected to his Pasifika heritage,” says Dr Talemaitoga.
“Even right up until his illness, Dr Williams assisted the Ministry of Health’s Pacific response to COVID 19 by helping front ethnic-specific updates for Cook Island and the wider Pacific community – doing weekly radio programmes on the Pacific Media Network,” he says.
Dr Murton is encouraging all New Zealanders to reflect and acknowledge the contribution made by all healthcare workers - especially GPs and their teams - who are working tirelessly to protect their patients from the damage caused by COVID-19.