26 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Hospitals restrict visitors, postpone surgery

10:38 am on 26 March 2020

Hospitals say they have been preparing for weeks for a rise in coronavirus cases and are well placed to treat victims.

Auckland City Hospital

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Dan Coward, chair of the district health boards' group of chief operating officers, said anyone needing treatment for serious injury or non-Covid-19 illnesses will "absolutely" still get the care they need.

But as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, most people in hospital now will not be able to have visitors.

"We are in extraordinary times and we are restricting access to members of the public coming into our hospitals," he told Morning Report.

Exceptions would be made for end of life care and parents or caregivers of children on a case-by-case basis, and ensuring personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided.

Visitors would be asked about their travel or exposure to people who have travelled, he said.

By postponing surgeries hospitals have able to create the capacity they need for the next four weeks in the event of a surge of cases, Coward said.

DHBs have also been planning to ensure they can provide the "right care in the right place by the right professionals".

In some cases that might mean using different spaces, he said. Facilities like gyms or field hospitals would be a last resort.

"But preparation would be in place for where we needed to think differently about how do we group clusters of patients across the country or in different areas or different facilities.

"That planning is part of the work that the national group of hospitals have been working on for a number of weeks."

DHBs had a dedicated workforce but there would be some who simply would have no option but to stay home to look after children, Coward said.

"This is extraordinary times so we are looking at extraordinary efforts to be able to support them.

"We really encourage people to talk to managers and seek the help that they need.

"But I do want to say that we have a very dedicated workforce that love providing care. And I know that for a number of them, this is going to be a challenging time."

If people needed advice they can phone the Helpline or their GP and if they felt acutely unwell or really believed they need to come to hospital they can dial 111, he said.

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