31 Jul 2020

Public health units now all using National Contact Tracing Solution

5:17 pm on 31 July 2020

All twelve public health units are now using the same contact tracing software, the Ministry of Health says, after half had shunned it.

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The New Zealand Covid-19 tracing app as seen in the app store. Photo: RNZ

Last month RNZ reported that half the country's district health boards had shunned the National Contact Tracing Solution, with Auckland and Wellington's region public health units preferring to use their own systems.

The move to a single system was one of the recommendations in April's Verrall report into the country's ability to rapid contact tracing, and also highlighted in a "deep dive" into three public health units' ability by consultants Allan and Clarke in May.

That report found units did not often use the National Close Contact Tracing Centre, nor the government's tracing software, which delayed their ability to identify clusters.

In Hawke's Bay, which had a cluster of 22 cases from Ruby Princess cruise ship, this "severely limited" its ability to realise a cluster was brewing.

It also found the region's DHB relied heavily on excel sheets to manage its contact tracing during the height of the outbreak.

Hawke's Bay DHB public health nurse manager Liz Read, who also sat on the government's Contact Tracing Assurance Committee to oversee the Verrall report recommendations, said all 12 units had made "huge progress" in the last few months.

The move in particular to a single cloud-based platform to record all contact tracing would make is much easier to act fast in the event of another outbreak, she said.

"If say someone in Auckland contracted Covid-19 and they had in the last couple of days been in contact with someone who had already gone to Hawke's Bay, we're all now using the same database so we can see the settings they have been in, the people they've been with... all our narrative, interviewing and information is in the same place."

Public health units were also being put through their contact tracing paces with a series of exercises being rolled out across the country, as well as training more staff to know how to use the system.

Hawke's Bay DHB had tripled its staff that were trained to use the National Contact Tracing System since the Ruby Princess cluster hit the region, Read said.

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