After yesterday’s news about Kawerau residents having been in contact with confirmed positive COVID cases there were already some inaccurate rumours circulating yesterday afternoon. It is important to share accurate updated information now available.
There is ONE Kawerau resident who is a close contact. They were contacted on Wednesday morning 23 September by Public Health and moved into managed isolation outside of Kawerau on Wednesday evening. Their initial COVID test is negative and they will remain in isolation for 14 days and be retested as per standard guidelines.
There are no other close contacts in Kawerau.
No businesses have been asked to close by Public Health.
The swabbing centre that is open tomorrow at the Ron Hardie Recreation Centre from 10am to 2pm was scheduled some weeks ago and is not in response to this single close contact.
With Kawerau making the news as a location that has residents who were in contact with COVID positive cases in Taupo, there is going to be a community swabbing centre running this Sunday 27 September from 10:00am to 2:00pm. This will be at the usual location, the Ron Hardie Recreation Centre.
Close contacts have been contacted by Public Health and are being managed with isolation and testing. It is important for anyone with symptoms to get a test done and to remain at home if sick.
Please take the opportunity to get a test on Sunday if you feel you need one. Do not wait for after the weekend as we have very limited capacity for swabbing in General Practice.
Thursday 3 September is the second strike announced by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation to press for pay parity with their DHB employed colleagues. As part of the General Practice team we are in full support of this. Pay parity is essential to enable us to maintain equity and a fair chance of recruiting nurses to maintain service to the community.
As a Very Low Cost Access practice we have no control over the fees we can charge. All our charges are stipulated by our contract with the Department of Health so we are reliant on them to increase payment to achieve pay parity for nurses.
The initial strike was for 2 hours which we managed to accommodate but on Thursday is for 8 hours from 8am to 4pm. With our Nursing and Reception team unavailable for that time we are not able to safely open so the Tarawera Medical Centre will be closed on Thursday 3 September.
The appointments lost on this day have been moved to Tuesday and Friday. On Thursday urgent problems will have to be dealt with via ED. Healthline is also available for advice on 0800 611 116. The COVID swabbing clinic is also open on Thursday from 10am to 2pm.
From Friday 4 September we will be opening the surgery again but require everyone entering the practice to wear a mask. If you do not have one we can supply masks for $1 each. People with respiratory symptoms will need to use their vehicle as their personal waiting room until being seen in the cabin behind the surgery.
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
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.
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.