When I first set to writing this column I was of course planning to touch on arguably the greatest challenge facing the health system – and certainly a greater challenge than I expected to be facing within my first months as chair – the COVID-19 pandemic.
That was last week. Now I feel it is the only thing I can talk about.
As you know by now, over the weekend the first confirmed case was reported in our patch – a European visitor to Queenstown.
This brings closer to home the reality the global community has been facing as the disease has worked its way around the world.
And every day that it has taken to reach our bottom corner of the earth has been another day our teams have had to learn and prepare.
This time has been a gift.
Advice has been made available on the Ministry of Health website, and clinical support provided by Healthline.
Our GPs have been able to rehearse the processes for patients who arrive with symptoms.
Our public health teams know what needs to be done to trace contacts.
Our people have become familiar with terms such as ‘self-isolation’, ‘flattening the curve’ and the ‘East Coast wave’.
Our hospital teams have been able to think ahead to managing individuals or cohorts of patients – knowing of course that there is a limit to the capacity of our hospital system, of any hospital system, to manage very large volumes of seriously ill patients.
I have witnessed a fraction of this effort that mostly occurs behind the scenes, and – as a member of this community – I am impressed and grateful.
And as a member of the community, I know the health system cannot manage this alone. We all have a part to play and I call on everyone to follow public health advice. Keep your (physical) distance, self-isolate with patience, sing 20-second songs of your choice while thoroughly washing your hands.
The Ministry of Health website and Healthline are there to support you. Indeed our whole health system and its staff are focused on the well-being of our community.
Are there other important health needs in our district right now? Certainly. Are there other programmes of work deserving of celebration and focus? Yes of course.
But now we are facing a challenge as a whole community, and we may be doing so for some time.
Thank you for your help. We’re all in this together and we are here to support you.
For other Better Health South Stories see below:
Demolition to provide opportunities
Lactation room proudly unveiled
Service your cervix
World Delirium Day
COVID-19 has now appeared in the Southern district
Better Health South - Board Update March 2020