Inside Dunedin's fight against Covid-19

Meet the frontline in Dunedin’s fight against Covid-19.

Swathed in personal protective equipment, the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other clinicians who are carrying out Covid-19 testing in Dunedin meet each morning at the city’s community-based assessment centre (Cbac) for a briefing, before carrying out tests on people who may have contracted the pandemic disease.

‘‘Every morning we do a huddle with the whole team,’’ WellSouth clinical services manager Sharron Feist said.

‘‘While some staff have worked here before, there are often new staff as well, who have come in from WellSouth and from the SDHB, who have never worked in Cbac before.

‘‘We talk through the safety of everybody while they are here, where things are in the building, and make people feel welcome because they need to feel like a team very quickly.’’

Community-based assessment centre staff in Dunedin get ready for a day’s work testing for Covid-19. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Community-based assessment centre staff in Dunedin get ready for a day’s work testing for Covid-19. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Dunedin has set up a range of Cbacs in recent days; an emergency facility at Forsyth Barr Stadium, following the positive test of a Logan Park High School pupil, a makeshift lab in Caversham, and now a new central city location.

While the new Cbac is obvious to passers-by, the SDHB is not publicising its location, as people can only come in for Covid-19 testing if referred by a health professional, and walk-in patients would hamper that process.

‘‘Patient flow is critical,’’ Ms Feist said.

‘‘It starts right at the front door, and at every step of the process the team needs to know exactly what they need to do; some of that is around keeping themselves safe, but it is also around making sure that we have the right patient, the right swab, the right labels.

‘‘It is a very scripted flow, because the last thing you want is people just wandering around willy nilly.’’

Valuable lessons had been learned from setting up the first two CBACs and had been carried over into the new facility.

‘‘We have four pods open at the moment and we could see probably around 100 patients in a pretty heavy day,’’ Ms Feist said.

‘‘We do have the option to open up four more pods if need be, so we can ramp up and ramp down if we need to, and we can also see people in their cars if we needed to do that.’’

The new Cbac was found and set up within two days and the shift from Caversham to the city took just four hours.

It is fully equipped with testing equipment and protective equipment: ‘‘We have everything we need,’’ Ms Feist said.

The much larger building offered not only space to handle the expected volumes of patients, but also offered facilities for testing staff to use.

‘‘Southern District Health Board is the custodian of the building and they were amazing the way they made everything happen,’’ Ms Feist said.

‘‘Facilities for the staff were a priority of mine because the team is working so hard and they are on their feet for so long, the more that we can do for them, so at least they have a place where they can sit down and get a cup of tea or coffee, the better.

‘‘If we start falling over, then no matter what testing facility you have there will be no-one there to do it.’’

A Cbac has also been set up in Invercargill, and one is being set up in Queenstown this week.

The SDHB has said further clinics will be set up elsewhere in the region if patient demand meant they were needed.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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