SDHB staying alert for second wave

Chris Fleming
Chris Fleming
There have been no active cases of Covid-19 in the South since mid May but the Southern District Health Board remains on high alert for cases of the disease, an SDHB meeting was told yesterday.

‘‘We are not out of the woods yet,’’ chief executive Chris Fleming warned.

‘‘We are still expected to be maintaining public health capacity to be able to cope with dealing with 24-34 new cases a day ... that is about making sure that the country has the capacity for managing if there is a further outbreak,’’ Mr Fleming said.

There was no sense of more cases on the horizon, but careful monitoring would be needed when New Zealand’s borders opened again, or if further lockdowns were needed, he said.

‘‘When you look at where we were heading pre-lockdown, when you look at the number of contacts every positive case had pre-lockdown, there was something like 50 per person, but after lockdown it was something like six because we were all in our bubbles,’’ Mr Fleming said.

‘‘Those two factors will have a huge influence on future challenges, future issues and future risk.’’

While hospitals had stood down from their Covid-19 preparations, they remained able to quickly ramp up again, Mr Fleming said.

Public health physicians were also still carrying out tests and performing their roles for other Covid-19 prevention work.

Chief medical officer Nigel Millar echoed Mr Fleming’s caution, and said the SDHB was in the early stages of what he expected would be an at least two-year battle against Covid-19.

‘‘At the moment, almost everyone in New Zealand is not immune [to Covid-19] so we have to be ready for this to recur,’’ Dr Millar said.

‘‘It could still be in New Zealand but we don’t know that, so we have to be ready ... it would be really easy for us to say ‘phew, we dodged a bullet’ but there might be 30 more bullets in the gun.’’

Mr Fleming said the majority of the SDHB’s services continued to be on either the management of, or recovery from, Covid-19.

‘‘We would like to acknowledge that the success of our Covid-19 response could not have been achieved without the support from other services making staff available.

‘‘This is especially true of the public health nursing staff, and moving forward we need to look at how we can continue to use the skills of the staff who assisted when case numbers increase again.’’

All staff involved with the Covid-19 response had been surveyed about what had worked and what had not, and 99 from 145 people had answered, Mr Fleming said.

‘‘People acknowledged that the situation was challenging and many were working outside their normal roles, which was stressful.

‘‘Many comments acknowledged that systems were put in place quickly and changed frequently.’’

Staff suggested more in-depth training, more effective communications, and better systems and processes.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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