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Dr Sam Hazledine, of Queenstown-based recruitment agency MedWorld, is working with the Ministry of Health to pull retired doctors and nurses back into the healthcare system.
Nationally, more than 1000 people had answered the call to arms and would bolster frontline care or provide support in telemedicine and tracing Covid-19 cases.
MedWorld was also working with the ministry on a task force to prepare hotels to deal with a surge in patients.
Former health staff who were no longer registered with regulators could be used as carers in these hotels, Dr Hazledine suggested.
“Queenstown is in an interesting situation.
‘‘We know there have been cases here and at [the World Hereford] conference.
‘‘There might be a lot more cases than we think.”
Dr Hazledine was concerned about capacity should there be a large outbreak, because patients would have to be treated in Southland or Dunedin hospitals due to a shortage of ventilators at Frankton’s Lakes District Hospital.
He was also asking for mental health and domestic violence services to ramp up their efforts in case things “blow up”.
“Look at the amount of people that will be out of work and not able to pay their mortgage.
‘‘Domestic violence is a real concern.
“The social ramifications will be huge.
‘‘We’ve never seen anything like this.
‘‘We have to prepare and adapt for the worst.”
Queenstown had a skeleton mental health service and Dr Hazledine said there needed to be innovative solutions to the shortfall in staff.
He was in the midst of organising a jet to China to deliver much-needed personal protective equipment for healthcare staff.
However, he said the most “decisive action” to avoid a crisis like that unfolding in Italy is to heed government advice to stay indoors.
“My biggest fear is people not taking this seriously and thinking it’s just a common cold.”