Early testing is key: health leader

WellSouth medical director Dr Carol Atmore. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
WellSouth medical director Dr Carol Atmore. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Amid fears Covid-19 could soon come south with travelling Aucklanders, Otago Daily Times reporter Courtney White asked WellSouth medical director Dr Carol Atmore about what people should do if they have Covid-19 symptoms or test positive for the virus.

Where should I get a test?

Anyone — residents and visitors — in Otago and Southland can access Covid-19 testing by calling the WellSouth call centre on 0800VIRUS-19 (0800847-8719).

Testing is available across the district at community testing centres, general practices, Maori health and other providers.

When should I get tested?

Getting tested early is important. If Covid is present in the community, identifying a case quickly is vital for stopping any spread.

Rule of thumb, if you feel unwell, get a test.

Testing is free (when it meets Ministry of Health criteria).

It is important to stay aware of testing criteria, which may change, but at present, you should be tested for Covid-19 if:

 - You have cold or flu-like symptoms.

 - You have been at a location of interest at the relevant time.

 - You have been identified as a contact by a contact-tracing team.

What if I’m unvaccinated and need to fly?

Unvaccinated persons seeking pre-departure testing can get a free rapid antigen test at a participating community pharmacy.

These pharmacies can be found on the HealthPoint site, www.healthpoint.co.nz.

What should I do if I need a test but don’t have a car to get to a testing facility?

You should call the WellSouth call centre on 0800VIRUS-19 to see where to get access to testing. The 0800VIRUS-19 call centre operates seven days a week, 8.30am to 4.30pm.

Outside these hours, calls can be connected directly to Healthline.

However, if you are unwell, you should stay home or at your accommodation until you return a negative test and even then stay at home until you no longer have cold symptoms.

What kind of test will I be given?

Nasopharyngeal swabs are provided for those with cold or flu-like symptoms, people referred by public health or who’ve been at a location of interest at the relevant time. Pre-departure testing is a rapid antigen test.

What happens if the result is positive? What questions will I be asked?

Health providers have been working together and planning for when Covid returns to our communities. There are well co-ordinated plans and processes in place that aim to ensure the health and safety of people and communities.

If a patient tests positive, Public Health South is notified by the lab and contact tracing begins. WellSouth and the patient’s GP or other clinician delivering care are notified and a process of assessment and implementing a programme of care is then put in place for that patient and their household members/whanau.

Is there a difference in care for vaccinated and unvaccinated people?

If you are unvaccinated, you are more likely to be more unwell. You will be assessed by a clinician (GP, nurse or nurse practitioners) to determine what level of care is needed. However, we do know that if you are unvaccinated, you will be getting daily care and a pulse oximeter — a small device that painlessly clips on your finger to measure your pulse and monitor oxygen levels in your blood.

In the vast majority of cases, patients will be managed at home, with general practice teams providing care virtually, by video or telephone.

What will happens if I’m visiting from somewhere else?

Travellers may have to isolate in location and people have been advised to prepare to isolate in place if they’re travelling. Whether a person can travel home depends if you can drive home within a few hours or if you have to fly, take a ferry or have a longer commute home. Covid-positive people isolating in place will be supported with the health and medical needs and any welfare supports, such as groceries.

What happens if I have to isolate, but have family or pets at home who require care?

Supporting welfare needs is part of Covid in the Community planning. Support for individuals and whanau having to isolate at home or in accommodation will be available to ensure they are safe and do not have to leave their location.

After a person develops symptoms they’ll get a swab and then self-isolate at home til the results come back 24 to 48 hours later. If the test’s positive, they’ll be contacted by Public Health South for contact-tracing, but there’ll also be welfare checks to make sure they’ve got everything they need.

 - courtney.white@odt.co.nz