Kia ora koutou
As outlined in my email last week, I will send through regular updates on key issues of importance for the health and disability sector.
Please do share cascade these emails across your teams and as always pass on my thanks and gratitude for everything they are doing, every day to support our response to COVID-19
This past weekend highlighted the critical importance of working together to break the chain of COVID-19 transmission.
You’ve all done so much to help us to get to this point, from our community workforce, primary health and hospital staff. Across the full spectrum of health and disability sector, I’m seeing people learn about a new virus, adapt to ways of working and to respond to keep people safe and ultimately save lives. Thank you.
The majority of COVID-19 patients are seen first by a GP, nurse or other health worker within their community. In just a few short weeks, Primary Care providers have established highly effective systems across every part of New Zealand to ensure patients quickly get the care they need. This is essential to helping limit the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring our hospitals are not overwhelmed.
To achieve this, providers have had to respond to a number of challenges, such as establishing virtual health care services to help respond to significant increases in phone volumes, setting up isolation rooms and other arrangements to safely provide in-person care, and of course working outside normal hours.
Our community and disability workforce are having to adapt in a similar way. We thank you for continuing to do your jobs and to care for those people in your communities who need it most.
The work every single one of you is doing is making a difference to lives of New Zealanders.
I know there has been a lot of discussion about health and disability worker safety. I want you to know that we care about your safety just as much as you do. We’re committed to making sure do everything we can to ensure your safety now, and as we move through the response.
This includes ensuring you have appropriate access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but also includes managing the number of people entering hospitals, enabling different ways of seeing patients (such as online and telephone consultations) and providing guidance around screening questions.
You will have seen today that the Ministry of Health is releasing seven million masks over the coming weeks starting with 1.2 million from the national stocks. These will be going out over the next 48 hours to DHBs to then issued to community and disability health workers in their areas.
There is clear advice about when to use PPE on our website to help keep our frontline workers safe. We are also conscious of the fact that we want people to feel safe and access to PPE is an important part of that, both in our hospitals and in the community.
It’s important that everyone receives the necessary training and guidance for using PPE correctly. We also need to make sure that PPE is used responsibly alongside other essential infection control practices, particularly handwashing and within the guidelines provided.
Responsible use of PPE will mean that we have enough now and throughout the response. It will mean there is enough for everyone.
We are working to ensure a consistent supply of masks across our health and disability workforce and essential workers and will do everything in our power to give you the information, guidance, equipment and support you need.
This morning, the Ministry of Health released a series of five modelling reports, completed by the University of Otago which we commissioned to help with planning and decision making at an early stage. The reports cover a range of potential scenarios and as always with modelling, they include assumptions based on the best evidence available at this time.
All of the scenarios show an unacceptable level of deaths in New Zealand without strong action. We can see these scenarios playing out overseas already.
Even with the sorts of strong measures we have in place to stamp out the virus the modelling is still predicting there could be a heavy toll on our health system and loss of life. That shows how seriously we need to take the virus, stick to the rules of the lockdown and maintain measures that reduce the risk of the virus entering the country.
Copies of the reports are available on our website.
I’ll continue to stay in touch with you as we work together to protect New Zealanders from COVID-19. Thank you to everyone across the health and disability sector for everything you are doing right now.
Ngâ mihi nui
Dr Ashley Bloomfield
Director-General of Health