Letter to Primary Health Organisations from Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General Ministry of Health
18 March 2020
Kia ora colleagues,
Thank you for your hard work and support in preparing and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and your ongoing commitment to your communities. There have been substantial changes in our response over the weekend
Please note the following updates:
The areas of concern have also been altered to include several new countries. https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-health-advice-general-public/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-countries-and-areas-concern
There are multiple changes, in both the clinical and epidemiological criteria of the case definition, and in the areas of concern. Please take the time to familiarise yourselves with the new definitions.
In these circumstances, ‘clawback’ as defined in the PHO Services Agreement will not apply.
Important points to note include: The ordering primary care practitioner is required to inform patients and provide advice for negative results, there is information on what to tell patients with negative results here https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-health-advice-general-public/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-questions-and-answers Public Health Units are responsible for informing patients and providing advice to those with positive results.
The Health Act 1956 requires health professionals to notify the Medical Officer of Health on suspicion of a notifiable disease, and this obligation continues. Local Public Health Units will prepare protocols of how primary care can perform this requirement: this may involve e-notification, fax, or email.
We have updated the resources on the websites to reflect the changes in this testing process, case definition, and areas of concern. The ‘Resources for Health Professionals’ pages are up-to-date. https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-information-specific-audiences/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-resources-health-professionals
As part of this, we are working with government to consider how we might provide financial support to primary care to meet the challenges of the current situation.
Finally, we are in a prolonged phase of ‘Keep it out – Stamp it out - Slow it down’, and there is a range of actions that we will be deploying. Primary care and general practice are critical components of our response. On behalf of the Ministry of Health, and the broader population, thank you for your efforts in working together to help the health sector respond to this pandemic.
Dr. Ashley Bloomfield,