SDHB Covid-19 update Wednesday, March 4

Mar 04, 2020

Further to our story yesterday, the SDHB has provided this more detailed update on Covid-19 from Dr Susan Jack, Medical Officer of Health, Southern DHB

Nationally, the Ministry of Health has taken the lead in the response to Novel Coronavirus/Covid 19, and Southern DHB has followed their guidance. We, like all DHBS in the country, are in regular contact with the Ministry.

Dr Susan Jack, Medical Officer of Health, Southern DHB

Southern DHB’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Coordinating Committee with representatives from the DHB, public health, primary care and emergency management began co-ordinating the Southern region’s planning and response to the emerging Covid-19 situation in mid-January. The Committee is providing our health partners across the district with the latest information, resources and advice about Covid-19 and how to prepare and deal with it should a patient present to them with suspected Covid-19.

We also have developed a special-access part of the Southern Health website to provide information specifically for health professionals on Covid-19.  It provides up to date clinical advice and resources for them.

Our priority in Southern is to ‘Keep It Out’, with Public Health liaising with and providing support and advice to airports, travel operators, cruise ships, tertiary institutions and health professionals around identifying people coming to Southern who might be considered at-risk.  This is continuing.

Healthline provides advice to the general public and for people registering as self-isolating.  It is our observation that people appear keen to do the right thing and self-isolate and we have been heartened by the response in Southern from people taking responsibility for health concerns around Covid-19.

Geographically Southern is the biggest region covered by a DHB and so far, we have had a small number of people tested for Covd-19.  All have tested negative. When someone presents and is tested, they are monitored by Public Health staff.

During this ‘Keep It Out’ phase, preparatory work is also being undertaken for the next phase, ‘Manage It’ for when Southern receives its first confirmed case of Covid-19.

Again, this has  involved all parts of the health sector in Southern, tertiary and other institutions planning and preparing to have the resources and procedures in place to deal with patients.  WellSouth is in almost daily contact with GPs and the SDHB has and continues to conduct planning meetings around how hospitals will operate when Covid-19 reaches Southern.

Winter will add pressures to this, with the flu season.  Last year we highlighted the need for people to prepare early for winter with flu vaccinations and will be doing the same this year.

We are concerned for the welfare of our staff and all SDHB staff are providing with regular information about Covid-19.  Health professionals are skilled and compassionate people, who daily work in a setting where they may be exposed to health risks and this is something we all take very seriously. Our procurement and logistics people are working to ensure we have the Personal Protective Equipment required for staff and that they are aware of the correct procedures in dealing with Covid-19. 

Across the Southern District we have we have 22 negative pressure rooms available – 13 in Dunedin, 8 in Southland and 1 at Lakes District Hospital. There are also single rooms with bathrooms for contact precautions (73 in Dunedin, in 39 Southland and 1 in Lakes) which could be used if needed.

The Lakes District Hospital negative pressure treatment room

It’s important to also note  that negative pressure rooms are one aspect of infection prevention and control. Other critical processes include rigorous cleaning and hygiene standards, use of standard precautions for all patients every day, and appropriate personal protective equipment being used correctly.

We would also look at other solutions, including care for patients with lower level symptoms outside of a hospital setting.

Overall, we have good processes and outcomes for infection management at the DHB, and ongoing vigilance is required, especially as we prepare for a possible outbreak.


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