10 Mar 2022

Watch live: Covid-19 briefing: 'It is still going to be messy for the next couple of weeks'

1:51 pm on 10 March 2022

The Omicron outbreak has put a huge amount of pressure on the country's GPs, with many dealing with a 50 percent increase in workload and more abuse from some of the people they treat.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Royal NZ College of General Practitioners president Dr Samantha Murton have given today's briefing on the government's response to the Omicron outbreak.

Watch it here:

There were 21,015 community cases reported today.

Speaking at the briefing, Dr Murton said 80 percent of GPs are now looking after more than 20 patients.

"It has put a huge amount of work on general practice. When you think about the fact that there are 20,000 people who have got Covid every day and across the country 50,000 consultations normally happen every day, that's a 50 percent increase in workload if we had to deal with every one of those 20,000 that came through.

"My colleagues want me to remind everyone that we are working really hard, doing our best for our patients and although we are prepared and have done the best we can do for when the outbreak occurred, it is still going to be a little bit messy for the next couple of weeks."

She said that was because there were people who wanted care and then people who needed care and were "quite vulnerable". Those vulnerable people will be the ones GPs are focusing on, she said.

"The other thing we have found is that across the country, people are stressed. People are stressed about having Covid, people are stressed about being isolated, about not being able to go out, about having family members who might be sick and the practices are under pressure to provide as much care as they can and so that stress can often end up with a lot of anxiety and peoples' emotions might flare, to put it politely.

"My colleagues have suggested people be kind to their providers.

"Please have a bit of patience as patients."

She said GPs have had things thrown at them, they have been verbally abused and have even been lied to.

"We are trying to protect our staff and other patients in the practice so having to corral people at the door and ask them questions, people will infrequently tell us lies about their health and turn up and be in a room and be Covid positive and they won't have told us they have had any symptoms, so it is a real struggle and we are having to put up more barriers which makes it really hard for patients."

She said some practices have security guards, and others have locked doors so people can not just walk in.

Dr Murton also put out a reminder that booster vaccine shots were the best protection people could get.

Auckland hospitals have reported that they are dealing with far more Covid-19 cases than even their worst case scenarios predicted, with daily case numbers as high as 533 across the city's hospitals this week.

In Wellington, frontline care workers are operating around the clock to help the more than 17,000 people across the region who are isolating at home and in need of some level of assistance.

Canterbury District Health Board is already teetering on patient capacity, three weeks away from an expected peak of Covid-19 cases.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins has announced that the isolation period for Covid-19 cases and their household contacts is reducing to one week, down from 10 days, from tomorrow.

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