Saturday, May 28, 2022
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Covid crisis hits emergency departments

  Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air

People with non-urgent complaints should avoid Taranaki emergency departments (ED) this Anzac weekend as Covid-19 removes huge numbers of staff from the hospital workforce.

EDs were overwhelmed over Easter weekend, said Taranaki District Health Board’s Base Hospital ED clinical nurse manager Therese Manning.

Each day a rolling average of about 100 staff had been off work with Covid over the past few weeks.

“With Covid-19 still in our community, this has impacted staffing levels hospital wide and the availability of treatment rooms in ED.”

Manning said recently, people with non-urgent needs have struggled to see a doctor quickly.

“Our ED has been running over capacity since Easter and many patients have been waiting for a long time in our ambulance bay and waiting room.”

“We had 428 people come through the ED over Easter weekend, and 97 admissions.”

The DHB has some 1700 full time equivalent staff. Of these about 1000 are medical staff including nurses, although it’s not clear how many of these work in Taranaki Base and Hāwera Hospitals.

Manning said the EDs would need to be freed up to deal with any serious accidents and trauma this long weekend.

“The public can help by visiting other health services for non-urgent health issues like soft tissue injuries, sprained ankles, stubbed toes, common coughs and colds, earache and renewal of prescriptions.”

She said such health problems would be better managed by a GP, the Medicross or Phoenix Urgent Doctors, a call to 0800Healthline, or a pharmacy.

Despite the shift to orange under the Covid traffic light system, the visitor policy at Taranaki Base and Hāwera Hospitals was unchanged.

One support person was allowed for each patient attending an appointment, and there was a maximum of one visitor at a time per patient within visiting hours (2pm-8pm) and no visitors under 12 years old, unless by prior arrangement.

Extra visitors would be considered on a case by case basis by the ward or department manager and additional restrictions might be applied in high-risk areas.

Security Guards were at entrances to meet patients and visitors and carry out Covid screening.