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Restrictions remain in place during alert level three to protect the West Coast community

Thursday 30 April 2020Health news3 minutes to read

West Coast DHB General Manager Philip Wheble today said that under alert level three, the West Coast Health System continues to provide health care services across the Coast under the same restrictions that were put in place under alert level four.

“The Health System across New Zealand adopted a consistent approach to preparing itself for the potential impact of COVID-19. This approach aligns to the national COVID-19 Alert System levels and necessitated that each DHB reduced non-urgent work to ensure that it had sufficient capacity to cope with an anticipated rise in patients with acute respiratory symptoms,” says Mr Wheble.

“Locally, we implemented a number of changes to how we provided health care in order to protect our community and staff during what continues to be a challenging and changing environment. These changes included restricting access to our facilities and increasing the number of virtual appointments via phone, text, email or video.

Virtual consultations have proven to be particularly useful to assist us to manage long term patients in both primary and secondary care and the feedback we have received from these has been positive. People who need to come in for a face-to-face consultation can still do so.”

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we postponed elective surgeries as well as the majority of face-to-face elective outpatient appointments. People who had non-deferrable surgical procedures were given new dates. We are increasing elective activity from next week and plan to be providing 80% of pre-COVID-19 outpatient clinics from Monday, 11 May and expect to be operating at 100% capacity from Monday, 18 May 2020.

When we have sufficient surgical capacity to recommence booking of non-urgent deferrable surgery, we will prioritise bookings to ensure patients are seen as clinically appropriate, based on their needs. At this stage, subject to surgeon availability, we expect to be operating at 80% of pre-COVID-19 surgery volumes from Monday, 18 May 2020.”

“Had we not taken the actions we did there would have been very little capacity to respond to a COVID-19 outbreak on the West Coast if it had occurred. When the risks associated with COVID-19 decrease, outpatient clinic activity will increase again and face-to-face clinic appointments will recommence,” Mr Wheble says.

Because elective surgery and non-urgent face-to-face outpatient appointments were postponed, West Coast DHB is in a better position to manage the COVID-19 cases which may continue to occur in the coming months as the COVID-19 Alert System levels are altered.

“We understand that our prudent and cautious approach has resulted in an inconvenience for some patients who have had their access to treatment delayed, however, the vast majority of patients contacted when their appointment was postponed thanked our staff for the “better safe than sorry” approach which we have taken.”

“It’s vital that we continue to remain focused on reducing the opportunity for any infections to spread. I would like to thank people in advance for their cooperation and playing their part to keep our patients and staff safe,” Mr Wheble says.

Please call your general practice or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 – high temperature (at least 38°C), cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, sneezing and runny nose, temporary loss of smell. These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have COVID-19. The symptoms are like other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu. Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

If you are unwell, please do not go directly to a pharmacy, general practice or emergency department – ring your general practice team for advice. If it is an emergency – phone 111.



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Page last updated: 16 July 2020

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