21 Feb 2022

Covid-19: Ill protesters urged to stay away from hospital

11:27 am on 21 February 2022

Wellington Hospital's chief medical officer says anyone at the protest outside Parliament who has Covid-19 symptoms should go home or contact their GP or community health service, rather than heading to the hospital.

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Wellington Hospital's chief medical officer says anyone refusing a Covid-19 test on presenting to the hospital's emergency department will be treated as if they are positive for Covid-19 and isolated. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Dr John Tait said Wellington Hospital had plans in place to deal with an influx of sick, infectious people with coronavirus, but planned surgeries and outpatient clinics would be delayed.

He said it would be preferable for protesters with symptoms of Covid-19 to be managed in the community.

"As we all know, our ED is under some degree of stress, so certainly we'd prefer [the protesters] to go home, and if not, to contact a general practitioner or community service."

Tait said a temporary inpatient screening zone had been set up at the hospital.

"Everyone is screened coming through and if you're considered high-risk, then you'll be off for a swab. If you're unvaccinated, that does put you into the high-risk group."

He said if anyone refused a test they would be treated as if they were positive for Covid-19 and isolated.

"If they refuse to wear a mask, then we put them into a separate area and basically shut the door."

Tait said he was not aware of any patients who had yet needed to be isolated for refusing to wear a mask or be tested.

There were 54 cases of Covid-19 reported in Capital and Coast DHB's jurisdiction yesterday.

Tait said the growing number was a concern but he was confident the hospital had adequate systems in place to manage any spike in cases.

"We're obviously concerned but we do believe we've got the processes in place."

He said any surge in cases presenting at the hospital driven by an outbreak amongst protesters would add stress to the system but he was confident the hospital could cope.

"There's no doubt that it will potentially add to a very - already stretched - ED, but we do believe our processes and systems will be able to cope with that and that we'll be able to ... ensure the safety of our staff and those patients already in hospital and manage to provide treatment and support for all those."

Tait said elective care would bear the most impact from any Omicron outbreak.

"If we do get a major influx of patients into the hospital, we will be having to obviously reduce things like elective surgery and outpatient clinics."

He said he was more concerned about patients who came to the hospital seeking treatment for something other than Covid-19 who were subsequently found to be Covid-19-positive, than he was about patients coming in because they were unwell with the virus.

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