Testing workload a struggle: Dunedin doctors

Jill McIlraith. Photo: ODT files
Jill McIlraith. Photo: ODT files
Dunedin doctors, overwhelmed by a renewed demand for Covid-19 tests, say if requests continue they will need assistance from community-based assessment centres (CBACs).

WellSouth responded to their calls yesterday, saying centres would not open yet, but could at very short notice if needed.

Aurora Health Centre doctor Jill McIlraith said it had received more than 100 calls in the 24 hours following the Government announcement increasing restrictions on Tuesday.

"It’s been crazy ... People are a little bit frayed around the edges.

"I feel for my staff who are copping a lot of anxiety and a little bit of aggression at times at the moment.

"Last week, we were doing five or six tests a day. Yesterday [Wednesday], we did 24, which is our capacity."

It was difficult dealing with the centre’s typical workload alongside a resurgence in "Covid anxiety", Dr McIlraith said.

"People are highly emotional ... Some are coming in and bursting into tears."

While the centre had resources to test people, it was struggling with the manpower to meet demand, she said.

"We are overwhelmed. If we get any positives [test results] in the region it is certainly going to ramp up further. The return of CBACs would help us greatly."

The centre was planning a Covid-19 testing clinic for its patients this morning to meet excess demand.

Amity Health Centre doctor Susie Lawless echoed those sentiments, saying it had been inundated by demand and had carried out 24 tests on Wednesday.

"Yesterday was huge. It was a nightmare really.

"We had so many people contact us with cold and flu-like symptoms, or who had been in Auckland, ringing us asking whether they could get a test."

Having to wear full personal protective equipment and clean after each test meant the clinic was not equipped to complete many each day.

Dr Lawless said she hoped to see CBACs open if this level of need continued.

"We couldn’t continue to offer the level of swabbing and testing we’ve been doing over the past couple of days on top of everything else... We have lots of deferred care."

Supply of Covid-19 testing kits was not an issue, and another 100 had arrived on Wednesday evening, Dr Lawless said.

Dunedin North Medical Centre doctor Daniel Pettigrew said the centre had completed 28 tests yesterday.

It was a good sign people were eager to get tested, and that many knew getting a test would help, he said.

"People are very happy to do their part."

Dr Pettigrew said the centre was feeling supported, but if demand continued alternative options for testing would be needed.

"If this level of workload was sustained we would need to see it [CBACs]."

WellSouth CEO Andrew Swanson-Dobbs said general practices across the region had stepped up to provide testing after a significant increase in demand.

"This has been in addition to their normal busy clinical case load, and we are very grateful to primary care health providers for stepping up again."

He said WellSouth was working to ensure testing demand was being managed appropriately.

"We have continued to plan to manage capacity and if community based testing centres or pop-up testing sites are required, we are able to scale up and provide this very quickly."

Yesterday, WellSouth set up a temporary drive-through testing centre in Invercargill to provide extra support to GPs and patients, Mr Swanson-Dobbs said.



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