8 Mar 2022

Hawke's Bay Hospital services reduced as Covid-19 outbreak grows

8:37 am on 8 March 2022

Hawke's Bay Hospital has had to scale back some of its services and operations, as the number of Covid patients in the hospital grows.

Hawke’s bay hospital ED in Hastings.

Hawke's Bay Hospital emergency department in Hastings. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

The hospital has been under stress and pressure over the last year, struggling with staff and patient safety in its emergency department and trying to get patients out of the hospital at the right time.

Hospital admissions for Covid-19 in the region have increased over the last week.

On 1 March, the hospital's first case in the current outbreak was admitted.

Now, eight people with the virus are at the hospital.

Yesterday, the hospital set up a dedicated Covid-19 ward, to mange the growing number of cases.

Reconfigurations in its gastroenterology building meant up to 17 Covid-19 patients could stay in the ward, and intensive care units were available if necessary.

The hospital would start undertaking surveillance testing of hospital patients to find asymptomatic cases.

There was also had another ward on stand by for 24 more Covid patients, if needed.

The birthing unit also had a dedicated suite for māmā with the virus.

Hawke's Bay Hospital chief operations officer Chris Ash said the new Covid-19 wards meant some endoscopy procedures and planned surgical operations would need to be deferred.

Outpatient appointments would shift to virtual consultations if necessary, he said.

DHB chief executive Keriana Brooking told RNZ the Covid demand meant some services would need to be "scaled back" at the hospital.

"We've worked out those things that we may need to do less of, what are those things that we may need to do out of the hospital, so in somebody's home, and we've also looked at the way at we might be able to increase our ability to discharge," she said.

"We will need to communicate with our community, and sometimes quite quickly, should we find ourselves in the position where we need to continue to provide a service, but in doing that, we may have to manage the services we have available."

Hospital stays were about half the length of those for Delta, though the DHB was expecting more people to arrive who had to be managed for longer, Brooking told Morning Report.

The hospital had admitted a number of children with the coronavirus, she said.

Brooking maintained acute and emergency care would always be available.

She said staff had been asked if they would put their hand up to redeploy to another role if they needed to.

The emergency department demand had been "reasonably intense" in the last couple of months, but not as busy as the busiest, in May last year.

The department can cope with about 120 people a day.

But in May last year they hit 185 in a day, 65 over the normal capacity.

"I wouldn't want to say we've been completely quiet - but the 180 a day presentations that we have experienced in the past - we haven't been seeing as much," Brooking said.

As of Monday, there are nearly 3000 active cases of Covid-19 in Hawke's Bay.

The region only had about 40 in the 2020 outbreak.

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