COVID-19 Update 31 July 2020

Waiting Room display by tamariki of Room 6, Kawerau South School

Things are slowly settling into a “new normal” with the risk of COVID-19 significantly diminished. Our waiting room is again open but we need to keep numbers low with safe spacing. This means that the previous walk-in clinics can no longer be safely run. We still have morning clinics for brief urgent problems but these are all by appointment only, so please phone if you want to book into this clinic. We still offer phone consultations if you feel your problem can be managed in this way.

We still need to keep people with respiratory illnesses outside of the main surgery building as much as possible to limit the risk of spreading illness to staff or other patients. Signs are displayed prominently asking anyone with coughs or colds to put on a mask and contact us from their car. They are then triaged to be seen in the surgery or in the cabin behind the surgery. Please follow this advice to help us to keep delivering safe services to the community.

We have unfortunately had a number of people wander in and ignore the information, sit coughing in the waiting room and then head in to see a doctor or nurse while clearly infectious. This places the whole service at risk as when any of us come down with illness we can no longer come in to work. Please be considerate of others and stay away from work while sick.

The COVID-19 lockdown has seen a dramatic decrease in winter colds but this gain will be quickly lost if sick people spread the viruses through the community and we drop our guard with cough etiquette and hand hygiene.

On a brighter note we have had a lovely display put up in the waiting room by the tamariki of Room 6 at Kawerau South School as an appreciation for essential workers that kept things running through lockdown. This has really brightened the waiting room and, along with all the cherry trees bursting into bloom, reminded us that Spring is on the way

COVID-19 Update 29 May 2020 – Level 2 – CBACs Close

Portable cabin for safe assessment and swabbing of patients with respiratory symptoms

From next week we no longer have access to CBACs for assessment of respiratory infections outside of General Practice. With the current case definition all people with symptoms of sore throat, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath or loss of smell still need to have a COVID swab done and this now needs to be done through your GP.

While we are now able to book more appointments to see patients in the surgery we still need to keep people with respiratory symptoms away from others to minimise the risk of spread. This means initial contact will need to still be by phone.

If you have symptoms please phone in by 10am and you will be placed on a triage list to be contacted by a doctor or nurse. Arrangements will then be made for you to have a swab done either at the laboratory or the surgery. This is by appointment only at an afternoon clinic and not necessarily on the same day. There is no self-referral option as there was with CBACs.

To enable safe swabbing of those patients that have to be seen by a GP we have hired a portable cabin so that infectious patients are seen without entering the main surgery building. This has been equipped so that we can provide assessments and swabbing in a safe environment with appropriate PPE.

Influenza-like illness symptoms 2020 in comparison to previous 2 years

New Zealand’s swift response to COVID-19 has achieved an enviable result. Today we again have had no new cases reported and only a single active case still in the country. A benefit of the lockdown has been a much lower incidence of winter cold and ‘flu infections as shown in the graph above. Now that social contact is increasing we can expect these infections to start rising and as a result an increasing demand for swabs. This is a real pinch point for us in General Practice as we are already stretched catching up with all the issues put on hold during the lockdown and now have to take on the role provided to date by CBACs which may escalate. Please be patient and understanding if we cannot see you as promptly as you may like with non-urgent issues.

With ongoing swabbing of symptomatic people, if swab results remain negative we should see a change in the case definition and a reduction in swabbing. If swabbing starts to reveal a resurgence of COVID-19 the CBACs with need to reopen. Maintaining social distancing, strict hand hygiene, cough etiquette and staying home when sick we will minimise the risk of all virus spread and increase the chances of the best outcome.

COVID-19 Update 15 May 2020 – Level 2

As a country we can feel proud of the efforts we have made and the results achieved by the level 4 and 3 restrictions. There have been significant sacrifices made but we have done far better at limiting the explosion of cases with loss of life that other countries have suffered. This link to the Financial Times show some interesting interactive graphs. We don’t want to lose those gains.

Evidence from Italy was that GP waiting rooms were a significant factor in the spread of COVID-19 which is why we closed our waiting room on Monday 23 March, even prior to the first level 3 announcement. We cannot go back to a scenario where sick people are together in the waiting room risking the spread of viral infections to each other. We will continue to expect you to use your vehicle as your personal safe waiting room as much as possible.

Prior to entering the medical centre you will be asked if you have symptoms of possible COVID-19, in order to protect staff and vulnerable patients. We are keeping a sign in sign out book of all patients entering the building to facilitate contact tracing if needed.

With level 2 we will be able to start seeing more patients in the surgery. We will still aim to manage as much as possible by phone or video consult but Reception will be able to start booking appointments again provided you do not have any risks of a viral infection. The evidence that we have suggests the incidence of COVID-19 in the community is extremely low, especially in the Eastern BOP. To have certainty and confidence around this a lot of testing will need to still be done for anyone with symptoms that could be COVID related. At present this will still be done via CBACs. We are still waiting to hear what the plans for CBACs are in level 2 (there may only be a testing station). It remains crucial that if you have any symptoms of runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever or loss of smell that you get tested and don’t just arrive unannounced at the surgery. 

Walk-in clinics remain suspended as this is a major risk of sick people congregating and spreading infection. If you would like to arrange a consultation please phone before 11:30am. Reception will then arrange an appointment if appropriate for phone/video/in person. This will, as usual, depend on availability. If things cannot be dealt with by Reception you will be placed on a “Phone Triage” list to be called by a nurse or doctor later in the day or later in the week depending on the problem. 

Phone and video consultations are allocated the same amount of time as a traditional face to face consult and charged the same. Records are viewed prior, notes, referrals, lab request and prescriptions are generated and sent after so the remote consultation is not just the time spent on the phone or video link. Consultations for ACC and WINZ certificates can still be done by phone consult. Online banking is preferred to limit contact with cash/card terminal. 

Routine nursing and screening services will be gradually reintroduced so appointments will be possible for smears, diabetes reviews and cardiovascular risk assessments. 

We have been advised to defer Driving Licence assessments until Level 1. Licences that expired after 1 January 2020 have been extended to October so there is no urgency around these at present.

Influenza vaccination is still available and we have good supplies. This is available if you come to the door and knock between 9am and 3pm. 

Breastscreen Caravan returns to Kawerau

photo of breast screen promotion display in the waiting room
Breastscreen display in the waiting room by Sarah

The mobile breast screening caravan is returning to Kawerau from 18 May to 12 June 2020. This will enable women to again access this important screening service without having to travel out of town.

To promote this, Sarah Morris, our artistic Health Care Assistant, installed one of her health promotion displays in the waiting room. This was prior to the COVID-19 lockdown and this post was due to be published at the end of March. The lockdown put many things on hold and it is good to see more normal screening services resuming.

For more information on the benefits of screening visit the TimeToScreen website.

Influenza Vaccine Update 5 May 2020

We have supplies of Influenza vaccine which in now available for everyone that would like to protect themselves from Influenza. If you would like a vaccine just come down to the surgery between 9am and 3pm and knock on the door.

Initially only those over 65 or those under 65 with chronic conditions who were eligible for funded vaccinations could be vaccinated. We can now offer vaccination to those who are not eligible for funded vaccines and wish to purchase a dose.

We have administered a record number of vaccines over the past weeks and this with the COVID-19 lockdown means that we have a very low incidence of influenza symptoms currently. If you would like to get a vaccination in anticipation of the lowering of alert levels and increased social contact please contact the surgery. If you are eligible for a funded vaccine it will be free. If not the cost is $30 for enrolled patients or $35 for visitors to the practice.