3 Apr 2020

Covid-19: New Zealand hospitals prepare to handle virus patients

6:11 pm on 3 April 2020

Extensive work is taking place to repurpose hospital buildings and train staff to get ready for Covid-19 patients.

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Photo: Ministry of Health / Supplied

At Auckland's North Shore Hospital, the former elective surgery centre has been repurposed so that Covid-19 patients can be cared for separately.

The hospital has also doubled its ICU (intensive care) capacity.

North Shore Hospital's Dr Willem Landman said anyone presenting to the emergency department would now be met with security and two tents.

"The purpose of the tents is to first of all determine whether you are coming in with a Covid condition or a non-Covid condition, the second purpose is to work out whether you really need to be in hospital or whether we can find a better place for you to receive your care," he said.

Health Minister David Clark said North Shore Hospital and many others had also been using the time provided by the lockdown and the reduced number of elective surgeries to prepare staff.

He said DHBs were at about 50 percent occupancy and were running intensive theatre training sessions to teach staff how to manage the particular needs of Covid-19 patients.

"These extensive trainings and simulations run by Intensive Care Specialists, mean that our doctors and nurses are ready to care for Covid-19 patients," he said.

Health workers take part in ICU training for Covid-19 at Hutt Hospital.

Health workers take part in ICU training for Covid-19 at Hutt Hospital. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

He said the Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs were working with private providers to ensure that non-deferrable elective surgery such as cancer surgeries could continue.

"Facilities are also being adapted across both DHBs to assist with any escalation in the care provided.

"For example, at Capital & Coast DHB they have created special spaces for Covid-19 with the ability to change bed numbers, depending on demand."

He said all the preparations have given him confidence that New Zealand is prepared for any potential increase in COVID-19 patients needing hospital level care.