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Work had been progressing on the Eastfield Health building and the practice had been planning to move in by now, but contractors were unable to finish the job under Alert Level 4 restrictions.
The medical centre’s business manager Tony Dann said work restarted after Anzac Day when the country moved to Alert Level 3 and a move-in date was now around the start of July.
“We are at the end stage of the build which means that there are a lot of contractors working onsite, so it makes it a little more difficult for the project manager to co-ordinate.”
Mr Dann said it had been an intense past six weeks while the doctors and other medical staff operated under pandemic conditions. “But we are now settling into a rhythm of how to best look after our patients safely.”
The pandemic had brought forward some operational changes, like more phone and video consultations.
“An important shift in primary health is thinking about how we can make consults more convenient for our people by offering phone and video consults so they don’t always have to come into the practice, which is much better for people who live out of town.
“Because we have gone primarily to phone consults due to the pandemic this has forced both us and our patients to get used to phone consults much faster than anticipated.”
New doctor Maria Barroso has also arrived from Spain, touching down in New Zealand just before the borders closed but staying in isolation until moving south.
Her trip from Europe was stressful and included a changed, then cancelled flight, then a last-minute seat to Auckland via Dubai.
“Needless to say Maria is very happy to be here now and to be useful. She was feeling like she wanted to be doing something to help while being stuck in lockdown. She has been spending some time training up on the New Zealand health system and she is really looking forward to meeting our patients.”
The practice has been busy with flu vaccines, with a drive-through clinic for over-65s at Ashburton ITM and car park clinics for other groups.
“The supply of vaccines has been patchy because there has been unprecedented demand for flu vaccines nationally so we have had to be flexible in our planning for flu clinics.”
Childhood vaccinations are continuing as usual.
“The other really important thing is that people don’t sit on any health concerns. Our GPs, nurse practitioner and nursing team have got plenty of capacity to provide advice and guidance, and if people delay getting help, their conditions can often get much worse than they need to,” he said.
“People are much better off talking to us about their health needs sooner rather than later.”