GPs deal with more self-isolating patients as regional health service 'overwhelmed'

8:33 pm on 10 November 2021

South Auckland GPs say they are dealing with growing numbers of Covid-19 patients self-isolating at home because the service that assesses the new cases is "overwhelmed".

Papakura GP Dr Primla Khar

Papakura GP Dr Primla Khar said her practice is monitoring a number of Covid-19 positive patients. Photo: Stuff / Chris McKeen via LDR

They say delays with Auckland Regional Public Health assessing people who've returned positive tests mean they have to follow up on them - adding to their workload.

It follows the death of a man in his 60s with Covid-19 self-isolating at home in West Auckland on Wednesday. He was the third person in Auckland within the past week to die while isolating with the virus.

Health Minister Andrew Little announced a series of changes to Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) last month that he said would see the majority of people with coronavirus treated in the community, instead of relocating them to quarantine facilities.

Little said such patients would be monitored by Healthline, with primary healthcare GPs and nurses helping with initial assessments.

But almost a month later GPs say they are monitoring increasing numbers of Covid-19 patients self-isolating at home and there needs to be more clarity over their role in managing cases.

Dr Matire Harwood works at the Papakura Marae Health Clinic which is monitoring about 20 Covid-19 positive patients and has concerns with the way things are being handled.

"I think the Auckland Regional Public Health Service is overwhelmed with the number of Covid-19 cases it is handling," Harwood said.

She said it has often been contacted by people isolating at home who have tested positive for the virus, but haven't been contacted by public health officials after getting their results.

"So we try to send someone out to see them within a day or two of them testing positive," Harwood said. "But we've been doing this off our own bat. We've been doing this ourselves."

She said she is spending more and more time following up community cases, which takes her away from consulting with her other patients.

Figures released on Wednesday show there are now 1671 Covid-positive people self-isolating at home in the Auckland region.

Papakura GP Dr Primla Khar shared Harwood's concerns. She said her practice was monitoring a number of Covid-19 positive patients.

Khar said patients have often contacted the practice directly after getting their test results because they haven't been contacted by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service.

"But we're still trying to figure out how this is going to work, it's a fluid and constantly changing situation."

Dr Allan Moffitt is the clinical director of ProCare, the Primary Health Organisation (PHO) which funds almost 50 percent of the primary healthcare providers in Auckland.

Moffitt said the Auckland Regional Public Health Service is supposed to carry out an assessment after someone tests positive for Covid-19 to establish whether someone should go to MIQ, or isolate from home.

Healthline's role is then to carry out the ongoing monitoring of low risk people with the virus in the community.

But he said delays in Auckland Regional Public Health Service carrying out its assessments has meant some people resort to calling their GP for help.

As a result GPs are doing more and more work supporting people with Covid-19 in the community.

A spokeswoman for the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) acknowledged some people have faced delays in receiving health and social support to self-isolate at home.

"These delays have come about through a large number of cases being managed across a new system that is being embedded," they said.

But they said changes have been made to the system and increased resources have been committed to help support people recovering at home.

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