Hawke's Bay Hospital is hoping a complete reconfiguration into Covid and non-Covid areas will reassure the public that it is a safe place to seek help in a medical emergency.
The number of people turning up to the emergency department has fallen dramatically, worrying doctors that people aren't getting the help they need because they fear they might catch the virus.
Alarmingly, that included two patients who turned up three days after having heart attacks, Emergency Department consultant Dr Andrew Germann said.
"It is definitely a worry and I would not have seen this before Covid-19. It does highlight that people are staying home with emergencies are not presenting."
Presentations to the emergency department halved during the first week of lockdown and while number had increased to around three-quarters of typical volumes Dr Germann hoped the new layout would reassure the public the hospital was a safe place to seek medical help.
"We need to make sure people aren't putting off coming because they don't feel safe. This building should add another layer to keep patients and staff safe and making people feel safe."
A complete reconfiguration of the hospital had taken place over the last three weeks to create separate areas to treat suspected Covid-19 patients.
- If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre
This included the rapid construction of a new facility to triage suspected Covid-19 patients who turned up to emergency, which would mean they were completely isolated from other patients.
"Patients will arrive at the entrance and they'll be screened by a nurse asking for any respiratory illness or contacts. If they have any symptoms they'll be given a mask and placed in this facility," Dr Germann said.
The new triage unit would be up and running on Tuesday 28 April.
As well as creating a separate area inside the emergency department for suspected Covid-19 patients, new areas had also been set up it treat them if they were admitted, including doubling the number of intensive care beds.
The district health board's capital projects manager, Megan Knowles, said the new triage centre was hastily constructed in just two weeks after realising a new way was needed to manage suspected Covid patients.
The cost of the new unit and the reconfiguration of the hospital was yet to be determined, she said.
Only four patients with Covid-19 were hospitalised in Hawke's Bay, and half of the 41 positive cases in the region were now recovered, but Dr Germann said this new way of working would remain in place until the virus was eradicated or a vaccine was found.
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