Hospital stretched to its limit

Photo: ODT files
Southland Hospital. Photo: ODT files
Caring for two Covid-19-stricken sailors over the weekend stretched Southland Hospital almost to breaking point.

Two crew members from container ship Mattina, anchored at a secure quarantine wharf at Bluff, spent the weekend in the Invercargill facility after their Covid-19 symptoms worsened.

The Ministry of Health said yesterday one of the sailors was ready to be discharged but required ongoing medical care for an unrelated condition.

News at least one of the cases was leaving hospital was a relief for Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming.

Mr Fleming told a board committee meeting yesterday that Southland Hospital could not have coped with more Covid-19 cases.

"If there had been even one more it would have been quite challenging and would have required us to send them to Dunedin."

Southland Hospital had limited negative pressure capacity and also had to manage serious staffing pressures, Mr Fleming said.

Southland Hospital’s emergency department is usually very busy, but in recent weeks it has seen more patients than normal.

Last month there were an average of 119 presentations a day, and on one exceptional day 149 people came to the ED.

The ward averages 107 patients a month.

As well as putting a strain on ED, the Covid cases have stretched the SDHB in other ways, as it has had to transfer some sailors to managed isolation and quarantine facilities and also arrange accommodation in the south for others.

"What has become abundantly clear is that the difference in southern is that there is no MIQ, so that it is a 10-hour bus trip either way," Mr Fleming said.

"We are testing the waters and staff are really concerned.

"This is the first incursion that we have had but ships are going to continue to arrive into Dunedin and Bluff so we need to set up a system to deal with them.

"We are working with the ministry to find further options for any future events like this."

Covid-19 vaccination rollout incident controller Hamish Brown said the SDHB region had now passed the 130,000-jab milestone, and that with about 19,000 injections being dispensed each week it would soon reach 150,000.

Andrew Hou, of Roslyn Pharmacy, in Dunedin, and immunisation co-ordinator Alex Svejkar on site...
Andrew Hou, of Roslyn Pharmacy, in Dunedin, and immunisation co-ordinator Alex Svejkar on site yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH

Pharmacies have recently joined the vaccination rollout, and yesterday Roslyn Pharmacy, in Dunedin, which has offered off-site vaccinations for some months, opened its on-site vaccination clinic.

Owner Andrew Hou said two full-time vaccinators, an administration person and someone to observe patients after their jabs should process more than 600 vaccinations each week.

"I’ve just come back from a conference in Taupo with pharmacy colleagues and a lot of them were frustrated with how slow and problematic their rollout has been.

"The SDHB have been superb with their communication and getting things done and now most of the community pharmacies in Dunedin are offering Covid vaccines, and I hope that means a greater uptake."

Yesterday, Mr Brown told an SDHB subcommittee meeting that John Marrable, chairman of the disability working group and an access adviser, had been invited to audit the main Dunedin vaccination site in the Meridian Mall for accessibility, and that a similar assessment would be done of the Invercargill clinic.

Several issues, mostly to do with signage and directions for people to the basement level of the mall, had been identified and were being fixed, Mr Brown said.

He also noted that the Ministry of Health’s vaccination booking website now offered an option for patients to advise if they had disability issues which needed to be catered for when receiving their vaccine.


A warning to what could happen on much larger scale unless all are vaccinated. So get the shots!!

Stretched with only TWO cases! Unbelievable! Lock up the borders!

OK, that is frankly terrifying. TWO cases and the hospital is at breaking point?? We're screwed.