9 Mar 2022

Covid-19: Increasing Wellington cases puts pressure on GPs, community providers

9:50 am on 9 March 2022

Wellington's frontline care workers are operating around the clock to help people with Covid-19 who are isolating at home.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

More than 17,000 people across the Wellington region are isolating and in need of some level of assistance.

At the same time, about 15 percent of general practice staff in Wellington are unable to work because of the coronavirus.

GP at Porirua's Ora Toa Medical Centre Dr Sean Hanna has, like many family doctors, been working seven days a week to keep up with the growing list of Covid-19 cases needing care.

"What is unusual is the sheer volume of work to do, and the real fear that people will be missed out."

Added to that is the number of staff - doctors and nurses - that are getting Covid-19 and are unable to come into work.

"It's almost a perfect storm."

Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners medical director Dr Bryan Betty said case numbers, and pressure, had built very quickly.

"One of the issues here is providing services for patients with Omicron, but [there's] a need to maintain business-as-usual services, which are getting compromised at the moment."

Betty said people with Covid-19 were often scared and wanted to speak to their GP.

"Often patients with Covid want to connect with a health provider and have reassurance about the situation."

The number of people isolating is also putting pressure on community services.

Tiaki Porirua provides support for whānau isolating in the community, where there are more than 2000 active cases.

Services most in demand are kai delivery packages, picking up and dropping off medication, and organising other essentials like pet care.

Tiaki Porirua manager Ranei Wineera-Parai said calls to the organisation had tripled in the last week.

It is now caring for 1095 people, while also managing staff shortages because of Covid-19.

"I think staff at the moment are running on adrenaline. We know that things have to get done, so we just get in and work as a team and get things done."

In Wellington City, where more than 8000 people have Covid-19, demand for essentials have skyrocketed as well.

Calls to Wellington City Mission had increased four-fold in the last week, and it too is managing staff shortages.

Wellington City Missioner Murray Edrige said stock levels were still strong, and he remained optimistic.

"What we do know is that this will be a temporary phase.

"At some point we'll come out the back of this and demand will start to reduce, and staff will be able to return to work."

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