Hospital boosts capacity of ICU

Dunedin Hospital has boosted its capacity to manage intensive care patients with Covid-19 as cases in the South reached 132 yesterday.

The hospital, which has one Covid-19 patient in a stable condition in its dedicated ward, has ramped up its capacity to meet the threat of the disease, a report by Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming to his board said.

Dunedin Hospital now has 12 ICU beds and 12 ventilators, and plans to increase that capacity by eight in the short term.

At the start of its pandemic planning it could manage just two patients.

"We now have three step-up levels available, with trigger points being when there are more than two cases requiring intensive care," Mr Fleming said.

"This has included committing to unbudgeted capital expenditure to maximise our ability to provide intensive care services to Covid-19-positive or suspected patients."

The report shows that last month Dunedin intensive care unit staff were becoming increasingly concerned that their ward could be quickly overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients.

Their stand-by position in case that happened was to start using stage 2 of Dunedin Hospital’s ICU rebuild, despite it not yet being cleared for use, due to concerns over its ventilation system.

"The plan involves moving non-infectious patients across to stage 2 (noting that stage 2 has inadequate air quality and is not fit for general use currently), on the basis of a ‘needs must’ continuity plan," Mr Fleming said.

"This would allow infectious patients to be treated in the isolation areas in stage 1."

Needing to use the stage 2 ward would slow down full commissioning of its extra beds, but not using it could be harmful to patients and staff, Mr Fleming said.

Across New Zealand there were now 868 confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19, an increase of 71 from the previous day.

Of those, 132 were in the southern region, including 53 in Queenstown Lakes, 37 plus a probable case in Dunedin, and 20 in Invercargill.

Nationally, 13 people were in hospital in a stable condition, including one in intensive care. The death toll remained at one.

Of those cases, 103 people are classed as having recovered.

"For those cases we have information on, we are still seeing a strong link to overseas travel (49%), as well as links to confirmed cases within New Zealand (33%) and community transmission (1%)," director-general of heath Ashley Bloomfield said.

"Another 17% of cases continue to be investigated and we fully expect that some of those will transpire to be community transmission, once other alternatives such as overseas travel or link with a confirmed or probable case have been excluded."

There are 10 significant Covid-19 clusters — more than 10 people infected from a single source — including the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown (29 cases) and a wedding in Bluff (53 cases, including 19 new cases yesterday).

Bluff Board chairman Raymond Fife said several Invercargill City Council staff attended the wedding of a colleague, and were among about 70 people at the event, held at the Oyster Cove Restaurant.

Council chief executive Clare Hadley said about 10 staff members were tested for the virus, all of whom were linked to a staff member’s wedding.

Most tests came back positive.

"Here at Invercargill City Council, we have been focused on supporting all of our staff, and keeping communication open to make sure that everyone is getting what they need to get through this uncertain time."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson yesterday announced a further assistance package for businesses faced with folding due to Covid-19.

Measures including allowing firms to put debts in "hibernation" until they were able to start trading normally again, and allowing directors a "safe harbour" from insolvency duties imposed by the Companies Act.

 

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