COVID-19 - Tairāwhiti Health Services

This website has information about health services in Tairāwhiti during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Click here to view the COVID-19 Ministry of Health website. 

 

Level 1

Tairāwhiti is currently at Alert Level 1. More information on our alert level

GDC

Click Here to visit Gisborne District Council's website and find out about Council services and support.

Health

For the latest health advice for the general public on COVID-19, visit the Ministry of Health website.

Latest News from Hauora Tairāwhiti

Hospital was the best place to be

Praise after care during level 4 lockdown. Three weeks ago Mr Ebdale had just got home from work when his left hand clamped up and his speech became slurred. He was checked over by ambulance staff but went to work the next day feeling fine.

18 May 2020

Alan Ebdale

You have to have faith in health professionals as they know more than you do, says a Gisborne man hospitalised after suffering cardiovascular events during the alert level 4 lockdown last month.

“The service I received from my GP, the doctors at Gisborne Hospital, and the specialist nurse have exceeded all expectations,” says PAK’nSAVE produce manager Alan Ebdale.

Three weeks ago Mr Ebdale had just got home from work when his left hand clamped up and his speech became slurred. He was checked over by ambulance staff but went to work the next day feeling fine.

Later that afternoon, having just knocked the top off a beer, he took a call from his City Medical Centre GP telling him to go directly to hospital.

“I have to admit I looked at the beer, looked at the phone, and thought, really? Now?”

To his surprise Mr Ebdale was admitted to hospital for three days and underwent a variety of tests revealing that he had a new irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and was at high risk of a heart attack. 

“There are four main things that can go wrong with the heart and he had three of them,” says Mr Ebdale’s cardiology nurse specialist Kristen Willock.

Once discharged Ms Willock was responsible for Mr Ebdale’s outpatient care and like many people in his situation he was now on medication and starting to make a number of lifestyle changes. 

It was important Ms Willock stay up to date with any physical changes Mr Ebdale might experience while on a series of the new medication. Changes in heart rate or blood pressure for example would indicate there needed to be changes to his medication – something Ms Willock could do as she is a clinical nurse specialist with prescribing rights. 

Under normal circumstances the tests and any medication tweaks are done during an outpatient visit. But outpatient visits to the hospital weren’t available during the alert level 4 lockdown. 

Instead, Mr Ebdale received phone appointments for education about his heart and information on how to self-manage at home. He was also given a home blood pressure monitor so he could phone in his results, and scales so weight loss or gain could be better managed. 

“We have stayed in close contact,” says Ms Willock, who was available to Mr Ebdale whenever he rang the hospital. Medication is vital to someone’s recovery after a heart event and reduces the risk of future problems. But it takes time to see how the body reacts to medicine and Ms Willock needed to stay in touch. 

“Managing patients over the phone is a new way of working. But we have to do it right. Having a nurse at the end of the phone for Alan has been great but he deserves praise too, particularly for making changes to improve his health by making lifestyle changes, taking his medications, and seeking help if not well.  Mr Ebdale has done a lot of the hard work since being discharged.” 

For Mr Ebdale, the service has been seamless. He felt well cared for in the hospital despite the COVID-19 restrictions and considered himself safe managing his own health at home. 

“It has made me feel very special and it’s all been amazing, the whole way. In fact, I would say the service has exceeded my expectation.” 

“Even though I was receiving health care at the same time there was COVID-19 around I didn’t feel nervous. There were fewer patients and the hospital was the best place to be.”

 And he hasn’t had a beer since!

Visiting Gisborne Hospital at Alert level 2

From Monday 18 May, more opportunity will be allowed to visit loved ones in Gisborne Hospital. Visiting restrictions are still necessary at Gisborne Hospital to protect our patients and staff,

15 May 2020

From Monday 18 May, more opportunity will be allowed to visit loved ones in Gisborne Hospital. 

Visiting restrictions are still necessary at Gisborne Hospital to protect our patients and staff, says Clinical Care manager Lynsey Bartlett. “While this remains our highest priority, we also recognise the support that friends and whānau provide to our patients when they visit.” 

Wherever possible, we encourage families to stay in touch with patients virtually through FaceTime, phone and other apps. Free wifi is available at Gisborne Hospital for this purpose. 

Visiting under Alert Level 2:

Visiting hours are between 2pm-5pm only.

  • A maximum of one visitor per patient, at any one time, is allowed. This is restricted to close family.
  • Visiting is restricted to one visitor only per day in high-risk areas including the Emergency Department and intensive care. In other areas, a maximum of 3 visitors per day (one at a time ) is permitted.
  • Visitors may only visit one patient per visit to Gisborne Hospital.
  • Due to the continued need for physical distancing, a maximum of 10 people only, can be in a room at any one time.
  • You will be screened and your contact details are taken on arrival to the ward you are visiting.
  • In Planet Sunshine (Children’s Ward), a parent/caregiver is permitted to visit at any time.
  • One support person only will be permitted for maternity visits. This person will be allowed to be present throughout the labour and birth, until postnatal discharge. The support person will also be permitted to leave the unit once per day. The support person must be a close family member. 

There are now two entries at Gisborne Hospital that are open to the public.

  • Visitors are asked to enter the hospital via the main entrance – not through ED/Outpatients.
  • You must clean your hands on arrival.
  • Exceptions are visitors to Tui Te Ora (for dialysis and chemotherapy) and Ward 11/Te Whare Awhiora and Maternity which have their own entrances. 

Please note that discretion around visiting a critically unwell patient sits with the Charge Nurse Manager. If you are planning to visit someone critically unwell, please call ahead on 06-869 0500 to arrange. 

Gisborne Hospital remains a safe place during Alert Level 2. Please help us to keep it that way. If you are feeling unwell, please do not visit patients at Gisborne Hospital.

Heartfelt donations help keep patients well during lockdown

A small number of people with cardiac conditions can now monitor their own blood pressure during lockdown thanks to a nurse-led inspirational idea and generous iwi funding.
The easy-to-use home monitor machines track blood pressure and heart rate measurements,”

Tui To Ora Nurses with donated heart monitors

Tui Te Ora administrator Beatrix Carino (front) with cardiology nurse specialists Nancy-Rae Tarawa, Kristen Willock and Tracy Low with some of the donated equipment being used by people with cardiac conditions. Image: Biddy Robb.

A small number of people with cardiac conditions can now monitor their own blood pressure during lockdown thanks to a nurse-led inspirational idea and generous iwi funding. 

“The easy-to-use home monitor machines track blood pressure and heart rate measurements,” says Hauora Tairāwhiti cardiology clinical nurse specialist Nancy Tarawa. 

Ms Tarawa is one of three cardiology nurse specialists. She explained that after a heart attack or any other cardiac event a person may be prescribed several medications before leaving hospital. 

“The medication is vital for their recovery and ongoing health. Regular blood pressure and heart rate measurements help tell us if the medication is effective or needs changing.” 

Normally, people managing cardiovascular disease come to outpatient appointments to have those measurements taken, but outpatient visits haven’t always been possible under lockdown. 

“We knew we had to have some monitoring in place but the challenge was how to manage that remotely,” says Ms Tarawa. And that’s when the cardiology team had a super idea – if they had some home blood pressure monitor machines patients might be able to monitor more of their own health at home.

Knowing that iwi members would be particularly vulnerable Ms Tarawa, Rongowhakaata, contacted the chair of the Rongowhakaata iwi trust Moera Brown to see if it could help. Ms Brown encouraged Ms Tarawa to apply for financial support from Toitu Tairāwhiti - the Tairāwhiti iwi Covid-19 response collective, comprising Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga a Mahaki and Ngai Tamanuhiri.

“We wanted to help out people in our isolated communities who don’t have easy access to health care, particularly now,” Ms Brown said. 

“As a collective we appreciated that Māori who fell into the cardiac patient category would be vulnerable during this time. The ability to have some way of checking blood pressure and heart rates at homemade sense,” she added. 

Ms Tarawa’s application was successful and less than a week later Hauora Tairāwhiti’s cardiology team took ownership of 20 home blood pressure monitoring machines worth around $3,000. 

“We are so very grateful to Toitu Tairāwhiti. This type of equipment changes people’s lives especially when we are living under the COVID-19 constraints. It’s peace of mind for us and also puts the patients more at ease.” 

The blood pressure machines are being given to newly discharged patients and eight machines are currently in use in the community. 

Ms Tarawa says the generous donation by the iwi collective has provided a new way of working with some patients now, and into the future. 

“While they do not replace the necessity of seeing a cardiovascular nurse or specialist they will become an extra way for patients to stay safe particularly for those who live further away from the hospital.”

Meanwhile, the cardiology team are still easily available to patients via email, video conferencing, and where required at the hospital. 

Toitu Tairāwhiti is not the only group to get in behind hospital heart patients during lockdown. Heart Foundation NZ supplied the hospital with scales for discharged patients to use at home as they make lifestyle changes for better long term health.

New Zealand's Highest COVID testing rates

Tairāwhiti has New Zealand's highest Covid-19 testing rates for both Māori and its general population, Ministry of Health data shows. As of Friday 8 May 2990 Covid-19 swabs had been carried out in Tairāwhiti.

11 May 2020

Tairāwhiti has New Zealand's highest Covid-19 testing rates for both Māori and its general population, Ministry of Health data shows.

As of Monday 11 May 2990 Covid-19 swabs had been carried out in Tairāwhiti.

Of those, 1819 tests were carried out on the region's Māori population, 1070 on people with “other” ethnicity, 86 on people with Pacific ethnicity, and another 15 of “not specified” ethnicity.

Ministry of Health data (to 30 April) shows Tairawhiti was doing 42 tests per 1000 people, well ahead of the nation's second-highest rate of 32 per 1000 people, in Wairarapa.

Tairāwhiti's rate for testing among Māori was 40 per 1000, again the highest in New Zealand.

Tairāwhiti medical officer of health Dr Oz Mansoor said the testing rate was high here because of surveillance testing carried out by mobile testing stations.

“Our rates of Covid-19 testing have significantly reduced after the mobile testing finished last week.

“The mobile clinics were doing surveillance testing to increase our confidence that there was no Covid-19 lurking in Tairawhiti; particularly in our remote communities. Therefore people were tested whether they had symptoms or not.

“Testing is now available at the War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre, Te Puia Springs and Waikohu Medical Centre.

“All these places are concentrating on testing people who have symptoms.

“Because we have all stuck to our bubbles well we don't have a lot of respiratory illness in the community and so testing numbers are much lower.

“The most important thing to remember is that if you have any symptoms of cold or flu, or have a loss of smell or taste, please contact your GP.”

There is no charge for Covid-19 related consults or tests.

The War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre has reduced its weekend hours from 1pm to 4pm for both GP referrals and walk-ins.

Weekday times for walk-ins remain from 9am to 11am and 1pm to 3pm. 

Only people with symptoms will be tested and ideally, people should call their GP before visiting.

Advice for Employers under Level 3

Should employers get their staff tested before they come back to work? Dr Os Mansoor, Hauora Tairāwhiti Medical Officer of Health does not recommend this.

5 May 2020

Should employers get their staff tested before they come back to work?

Dr Os Mansoor, Hauora Tairāwhiti Medical Officer of Health does not recommend this.

Testing people without symptoms doesn’t provide useful information on which to base staffing decisions on.

  1. The test only shows what is happening on that day and does not provide any assurance beyond that moment. For example, someone could be incubating COVID-19 and this wouldn't show through the test.
  2. Employers should instead concentrate on looking out for any cold or flu symptoms, or loss of taste/smell” and encourage staff to seek immediate advice via their GP or Healthline. This is free every day of the week. Employers should put such checks in place with their employees. Daily checking in for instance, before commencing work. 
  3. People who have any symptoms should get tested by contacting their GP or going to the War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre. They need to stay home and avoid contact with others until they receive their results.
  4. They should not go to work, or come into contact with anyone outside their bubble unless seeking health advice. They shouldn’t return to work until 48 hours after they have recovered irrespective of test results; and will need to stay home and avoid contact with others until the test returns.
  5. Here are the symptoms employers should be looking out for and where to get tested.
  6. Advice for Employers at Level

Health advice for checkpoint staff

TAIRĀWHITI'S police area commander and the district’s senior public health doctor visited East Coast checkpoints last weekend offering advice for roadside staff managing people coming into the district under Alert Level 3.

6 May 2020

 

sAM aBERAHAMA AND dR oS mANSOOR

Gisborne Police Inspector Sam Aberahama (centre) and Hauora Tairāwhiti Medical Officer of Health Dr Os Mansoor (far right) visited four East Coast Checkpoints on the weekend helping roadside staff respond to level 3 changes.

 

TAIRĀWHITI'S police area commander and the district’s senior public health doctor visited East Coast checkpoints last weekend offering advice for roadside staff managing people coming into the district under Alert Level 3.

Gisborne Police Inspector Sam Aberahama and Hauora Tairāwhiti Medical Officer of Health Dr Osman David Mansoor made the day-long road trip on State Highway 35 visiting roadside checkpoint staff and community members along the way.

Dr Mansoor says the changes in travel restrictions mean it was a good time to reiterate the ways locals and visitors can continue to protect people’s health in the area.

There are very strict rules around travel and very limited reasons for anyone to be travelling between regions as per the COVID-19 restrictions. 

“Without a doubt you must not travel if you have been required to self-isolate/quarantine; are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or are awaiting a result from a COVID-19 test.

Dr Mansoor says anyone returning to the district is asked to be careful of their own health and the health of those who live here.

“Tairāwhiti has done incredibly well to keep the number of cases so low, so we now have no active cases in the region. Let’s keep it that way.”

“We ask that if you have anyone joining your bubble that you keep a careful watch for any sign of illness from that person for 14 days.”

“If you or anyone else in your bubble has any symptoms of a respiratory illness such as coughing, sore throat, sniffles, fever, loss of smell or taste, or shortness of breath, then please seek advice from your GP. There is no cost for COVID-19 related consults or testing.

If someone were to subsequently test positive for COVID-19 public health staff will contact anyone else who may have been exposed to the virus through a process called contact tracing.

Dr Mansoor encouraged community leaders at Uawa, Ruatoria, Te Araroa and Wharekahika to remind people moving through those areas to remain within their small home and work bubbles, help prevent the spread of illness and get tested if they have symptoms.

When Dr Mansoor met with Coast community leaders he emphasised that early detection and public health follow-up were key to ensuring COVID-19 didn’t take hold in the community.

Meanwhile, the district’s mobile testing has now stopped but the Gisborne-based War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre is still open for walk-ins for anyone who is experiencing respiratory illness symptoms and would like to be tested for COVID-19.

The centre is open 9-11am for essential service workers and 1-3pm for the general public. Weekend hours are 1pm-4pm. Testing is also still available in Te Karaka and at Te Puia Springs Hospital - call first.

Dr Mansoor reminded the public that it is not recommended for someone who is well, and returning to work, to be tested.

More information on travel restrictions under Alert Level 3 (opens new website).

 

Health in Tairawhiti at Alert level 3

Tairawhiti health care organisations and services warn people not to put off getting the health care they need. Don't be afraid, it is safe.

28 Apr 2020

As the district’s health care organisations and services move to alert level 3 public are warned not to put off getting the health care they need.

“People should not be afraid of seeking care and nor should they delay it,” says Hauora Tairāwhiti GP Liaison Dr Anna Meuli.

“Contact your health professional as you normally would, but still make sure you phone first. You can get all the treatments, immunisations and medicines you need to stay well, whether or not it relates to COVID-19.”

Health organisations in Tairāwhiti have reorganised themselves to deliver care under alert level 3 restrictions.

While some services will not change the way they have been operating since moving to alert level 4, others have more services available or different ways of accessing them.

Pharmaciesmedical centresurgent dentists and Gisborne Hospital have all been open and operating during the lockdown and continue to do so.

“Strict hygiene measures and physical distancing measures remain in place. Personal protective equipment (PPE) will be used when required and many consultations will continue to be over the phone or video,” says Dr Meuli.

Respiratory assessments and testing for COVID-19 will continue at the three community-based assessment centres (CBACs) at the War Memorial Theatre, Te Puia Springs Hospital and Waikohu Medical Centre.

Contact your GP first or turn up to the War Memorial Theatre between 9am and 11am or 1pm and 3pm.

Gisborne Hospital

Gisborne Hospital remains open for emergency care, says Hauora Tairāwhiti clinical care manager Lynsey Bartlett.

“The only entrance is via the Emergency Department where you will be greeted by staff and screened.

“We will be doing more urgent planned care, including elective surgery and radiology, than under level 4. We will contact people affected directly. If you haven’t heard from us expect that your appointment or surgery is still deferred. However, if you think your condition has changed please talk to your GP.”

Other hospital service updates include:

  • People referred to hospital doctors for the treatment and management of illnesses such as diabetes, respiratory problems, and skin conditions, and all other general illnesses that do not require surgery will get underway with priority people seen first. Referred people may have their appointment over the phone or by video consult.
  • General surgery will get underway with priority people seen first. At this stage hip and knee surgery is still on hold.
  • Visiting specialist appointments are being reviewed and where appropriate video consults will be offered.
  • The daily fracture clinic is already up and running between 8am to 4pm weekdays, and 9am to 1pm weekends and public holidays.
  • Ultrasounds, MRI scans and CT scans continue to be offered for priority patients. Staff have begun to work through the backlog of referrals starting with people who have the greatest need.
  • Other outpatient appointments will continue but will mostly be via video or over the phone.
  • Tlab Gisborne is performing tests deemed urgent or essential by referring GPs.

“We still have a strict visitor policy.  We are aiming to widen visiting a little under alert level 3.  At present discretion is applied on a case-by-case basis by the charge nurse or senior consultants,” says Ms Bartlett.

“Please also note that in Gisborne there is no change for women in labour in Puawai Aroha Maternity. Just as it was at alert level 4, as well as your lead maternity carer, you can still bring only one birth partner or member of your whānau currently in your bubble to the birthing suite. This will be the same person throughout your stay in the hospital with no additional family or whānau.”

General practices

General practices will be open, but appointments will still be conducted online or by phone where possible, says Dr Meuli.  “People will be able to see their doctor or nurse face-to-face if required.”

“GPs and nurses will continue to provide care for urgent issues, management of long-term conditions, mental health consultations, prescriptions of medication and the treatment of common illness. Patients will be referred to specialists and for other treatment if needed.”

“One thing that shouldn’t be put on hold are childhood immunisations. It is essential to be kept on schedule and it is safe to bring babies/children in for these as organised with your practice.”

Mental health and addiction services

  • 24/7 psychiatric crisis service can be contacted on 0800 243 500.
  • Mental health and addiction support is still available through Te Kuwatawata by phoning 06 868 3550 from 8am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. 
  • Hauora Tairawhiti’s adult community mental health and addiction service (ph 0800 999 014); Infant Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (ph 06 869 0541); and mental health services for older people are still operating.
  • Medication clinics continue in conjunction with pharmacies.
  • Acute mental health inpatient care in the hospital in Te Whare Awhiora (Ward 11) is open but closed to visitors.

Other community health services

  • Community pharmacies remain open but medicine management services will be provided over the phone where possible. Medicines may continue to be delivered to some people.
  • Community midwives will provide services in a variety of ways, including face-to-face and online appointments. Antenatal and newborn screening programmes will continue.
  • Community dental services may provide face-to-face appointments for urgent or emergency care. Routine care (non-essential and elective dentistry) will not be provided.  
  • Appointments for allied health services such as physiotherapy, podiatry, optometry and Well Child Tamariki Ora services will continue to be mainly online or over the phone. Some face-to-face physiotherapy, podiatry, optometry appointments may be provided for urgent appointments only, as long as professionals can take appropriate measures to manage public health risks. Well Child Tamariki Ora services continue to liaise with families and will provide face-to-face care as needed.
  • Breast screening and cervical screening has restarted. Priority women and those who missed their appointment at alert level 4 will be first to receive a screening appointment.

Residential aged care

  • Aged care providers will continue to maintain residents in their bubble as this group of people are a known vulnerable population.
  • In some cases, a person may apply for permission to see a resident and the request will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Requests must be made electronically or by phone.
  • Family visits for residents who are palliative will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Planned respite services will remain suspended, but urgent respite care may be provided.

Home help

  • Essential personal care services, such as toileting, washing and feeding, and home help services will be provided as usual.

More information about health services during COVID-19 

The week that stopped a nation

Doctors, nurses and health emergency response staff share their stories of working during an unprecedented week in New Zealand’s history.

27 Apr 2020

Doctors, nurses and health emergency response staff share their stories of working during an unprecedented week in New Zealand’s history.
On Monday 23 March 2020 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made an announcement that rocked a nation. COVID-19 was a threat and New Zealand was locking down to fight it. Millions watched the broadcast including many of the district’s health workers. The Gisborne Herald caught up with some of them including a mother-of-two nurse who created a bubble of one to save lives, and a health protection officer who delivered the news to this district’s first person to test positive. Where were they when they heard the lockdown news? How are their stories connected? And what happened next?

For Dr Anna Meuli the Prime Minister’s address to the nation was a pivotal moment. “I found it very emotional,” says the tall green-eyed doctor who is this district’s GP Liaison. Also a hospice doctor and previously a GP with Three Rivers Medical, Dr Meuli says there was an electric tension in the emergency operations centre at Hauora Tairāwhiti where she and 12 others watched Ms Ardern’s plans for lockdown. “We’d all been seeing what was happening around the world, we knew the risks, that’s why we were preparing, and now…well…here it was.”
Just days before, Dr Meuli and a team of Three Rivers Medical and Hauora Tairāwhiti clinicians created a swabbing facility at Three Rivers Medical. Then, three days later, taking their direction from the Ministry of Health, they built a respiratory illness assessment centre at The War Memorial Theatre. The COVID-testing site was nothing short of extraordinary, and epitomized community and business cooperation at a time of urgent need.
“We had wondered if the Lawson Field Theatre might work but then we came down here with Gisborne District Council staff and we could see that this theatre would work.”
On the theatre’s stage behind the gold house curtain, six consultation pods were built from medical grade temporary walls and topped with plastic ceilings. The pods gave doctors and nurses private spaces for assessing patients and where necessary, testing them for COVID-19. Working amidst curtain pulleys and theatrical rigging, health staff said it felt like working on a film set.
Dr Meuli says by Friday 27 March, the second full day of lockdown, the centre was up and running. “We knew we had to get it right – for our community, our friends, our families and our colleagues.”
***

In the emergency operations centre with Dr Meuli the day of the Prime Minister’s announcement was the district’s incident controller across all of health that week, Nicki Dever.
Nicki works at Hauora Tairawhiti and had taken over the role from fellow clinical care manager Lynsey Bartlett. In April she would pass the baton to former Civil Defense Emergency manager Louise Bennett.
“It was an emotional moment. I think we all thought what does it mean for our community, all our health staff and for ourselves?”
After Ms Ardern’s address to the nation you could have heard a pin drop. Nicki was quick to speak. She took immediate control communicating priorities including the urgent need to finish reconfiguring Gisborne Hospital so it was ready to receive people with COVID-19.
With blonde hair tucked behind her ears Nicki was a no-nonsense operator that day, and on all the days she led the team.
She is trained in the New Zealand-wide coordinated emergency management system known as CIMS and was no stranger to emergency situations.
With the hindsight of a week, she says it was professionally challenging for everyone involved and there will be a lot of learnings.
“My job was to maintain overall coordination of the health response and all the activities and personnel involved. We were striving to make it work for everyone.”
“The rapid response across all of health was remarkable.”
***

The Prime Minister’s announcement went completely unnoticed by associate director of nursing Roger Huntington. Quietly spoken and with 20 years of practice under his belt he was already absorbed with creating a hospital ward to treat people with COVID-19.
“It was all on,” says the Australian-trained Ngāti Porou nurse. “I have great managers around me and they were really receptive to what was going on. They understood the need to get it done safely and quickly.”
Normally, Roger manages the needs and requirements of the hospital’s 200 nurses - so turning a 24-bed medical ward into a six-bed (or more if necessary) COVID-19 ward was a unique challenge. “Our clinical staff devised safe ways in which we could move and care for people with COVID-19 within the hospital and that included the reconfiguration of Ward 5. It meant those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 could be kept physically separate from other patients.”
Roger played commander while his management team organised equipment relocation and staffing changes. Significantly, he also oversaw the delicate process moving existing patients out of Ward 5 so it could be rebuilt as the COVID ward. Eight patients were assessed and then moved to different areas of the hospital. One was able to be discharged.
Roger was proud of the staff who guided those patients and their families through that challenging transfer. “I’ve never had to do a reconfiguration before and of course I enlisted all the relevant managers to help. But we found the families were really understanding and it went incredibly smoothly.”
***

At the same time Ward 5 was being readied, a local man in his 50s was learning that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He heard it from health protection officer Cathy Walker who was acutely aware of the important phone call she was about to make.
“I felt quite confident ringing this person and had a good understanding of the virus. But I made sure I had everything in front of me as I wanted to be able to answer his questions.”
Tall and fit Cathy loves her job. She loves working in environmental health and can often be found outside checking the region’s drinking water supplies.
But ringing the man with COVID-19 certainly made for a significant work day.
“I think he said something like ‘oh geez’ and then he put the call on speaker so his partner could hear.” Cathy has maintained admiration for the people she met over the phone that day.
“He always took the situation he was in very seriously and was very helpful. He stayed in his bubble and did everything that had been asked of people arriving back in New Zealand.”
“It was a powerful conversation for both of us I think.”
***
Keisha Bartlett Rongowhakaata, Ngati Porou, Tuhoe is one of the nurses testing people for COVID-19 at the War Memorial Theatre. She’s given up cuddles and war games with her sons after creating a bubble of one while she works.
“I discussed with my parents the need to isolate myself if I was working at the centre and what that would mean,” says the 33-year-old. “I didn’t want my parents to get sick and so I have left my boys there and created a bubble of one.”
Keisha says her solo situation adds to an already charged environment. When she gets home she pores over videos of what her children have done each day. “Yes I feel disconnected and yes I miss them but they know mum is helping sick people and my family is supportive of what I do.”
Until changes in how New Zealanders live and work are announced, Keisha is resigned to the life she’s living. She’s missing nerf gun wars with her six-year-old and watching ships at Eastland Port with her youngest.
“I do get upset but I’ve got good friends and family support. All that other good stuff will just have to wait.”
***

Sporty 26-year-old Britta Carroll is also playing a waiting game. The outgoing occupational therapist had recently resigned from her job and was just about to tour the world with her partner when she watched the Prime Minister’s lockdown address in the office pictured above.
“The week before we had decided to reduce our six-month overseas trip to one month, but when I saw the announcement, I realised things were more serious than we thought. No trip, and my partner would have to remain in Christchurch as it would not be considered essential travel to be reunited.”
If that wasn’t enough disappointment to deal with, Britta also had to be tested for COVID-19. She’d been to a wedding in Hamilton which had one overseas guest, and after feeling unwell on her way home to Gisborne, she thought she better get tested.
Britta was impressed with the process and the care taken to ensure her own and the doctor’s safety. “There’s no getting away from the fact it’s an uncomfortable test, but I felt like I was in good hands.”
As for her normal work, much of it has changed including the way occupational health services are delivered.”
“At the moment it feels a bit eerie. We don’t have the throughput of people. Everything’s changed. Yeah, it’s eerie. Does everyone feel like that…?”

 

Large numbers of people being tested

Mobile Testing COVID-19 Clinics, which started on Monday, have contributed to a significant boost in the number of Tairāwhiti people being tested. In Te Araroa alone 89 people were tested at the mobile clinic on Wednesday.

24 Apr 2020

Mobile Testing COVID-19 Clinics, which started on Monday, have contributed to a significant boost in the number of Tairāwhiti people being tested. In Te Araroa alone 89 people were tested at the mobile clinic on Wednesday. As of Thursday 23 April, 1523 tests have been completed. That is an increase of 942 tests in the last seven days. Because of the large numbers, people attending mobile clinics may be in for a long wait.

Mobile testing has been a collaboration between health care providers Ngāti Porou Hauora Tūranga Health and GP practices and Hauora Tairāwhiti. All responded quickly to the call for more extensive testing throughout the district and all have been very pleased by the community response to the mobile clinics. 

Nurses and doctors have been ably supported by administrators. “Together we have shown that we can provide rapid testing of a large number of people in a very short period, says Medical Officer of Health Dr Bruce Duncan.

“However, there is a limit to our testing capacity. This relates to the number of staff and facilities available at any one time.  That’s okay. Testing is of most value where people have respiratory symptoms even if they are mild.”

“In Tairāwhiti at the moment there is not a lot of respiratory illness in the community. This is because we have all done a good job sticking to our bubbles.”

Dr Duncan says so far all the results from the tests at the mobile clinics have been negative. “This suggests that COVID-19 isn’t hiding in our communities.”

“The communities’ response means that we will soon be able to confidently step back from this intense testing in the community, and know that we can respond very quickly to any cases that might appear in the future.”

Dr Duncan reminded people that, anyone developing symptoms of COVID-19 (coughing, sore throat, sniffles, fever, loss of smell or taste or shortness of breath) should still discuss this with their GP.  “Our testing suggests the possibility of it being around is low, but we cannot let our guard down”. Dr Duncan is impressed by how seriously the community is taking COVID and the importance that rural communities are placing on their health and wellbeing.

Those with symptoms can be referred by their GP to one of the three assessment centres; the War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre, the Te Puia Hospital Assessment Centre, or the Waikohu Clinic in Te Karaka. The War Memorial Centre is also able to see people with symptoms who turn up without a GP referral at certain times of the day: 9-11am and 1-3pm for the general public.

All assessments for potential COVID symptoms at mobile testing clinics or the assessment centres are free.

 

Testing breakdown 10 March - 18 April 2020

Half of the 900 tests for COVID-19 completed in Taiarwhiti since 10 March have been for people identifying as Maori.

20 Apr 2020

Half of the 900 tests for COVID-19 completed in Tairāwhiti since 10 March have been for people identifying as Māori, says Hauora Tairāwhiti chief executive Jim Green.

Testing data shows of the 900 tested 49.9% or 449 people identified as Māori; 48.4% or 434 identified with other ethnic groups; 1.6% or 16 identified as Pasifika; and .1% or 1 did not have their ethnicity recorded.

Mr Green says the numbers of Māori being tested to date aligns with the district’s population proportions and national data, including how the virus is presenting across the country.

“Swabbing is now available for anyone who feels that they need to be tested for COVID-19. This is part of our ongoing efforts across the district to reduce barriers to testing.”

“By recently opening the War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre to walk-ins, and creating mobile testing stations in Gisborne and the East Coast, the number of Māori being tested is expected to increase.

Initially tests were done in designated general practices: Three Rivers Medical, Te Karaka Health Centre, and Te Puia Springs Hospital.

From 23 March testing in Gisborne was at a swabbing centre on the grounds of Three Rivers Medical, and then moved to the War Memorial Theatre on Friday 27 March.

“Although nearly all the tests return a negative result, it is still important that we test whenever people demonstrate potential symptoms in line with the Ministry of Health’s case definition.

"Obviously it's critically important for us to know not only if COVID-19 is tracking its way across the community in general - but how in particular it's affecting our priority groups, including Māori and rural people in rural communities."

“We are very grateful to people who come to get tested because in doing this they are also helping us to keep all people safe,” Mr Green says.

Testing figures show people aged between 20-29 and 50-59 have higher rates of testing in the district. People in these groups are the most likely to have returned from travel overseas.

Overseas travel was a focus for testing in the initial phase of the COVID-19 response in order to prevent people bringing it back into the country and spreading the virus.

“Now the focus is wider as we look to both protect individuals from the effects of the virus and to prevent spread.”

 

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 tests completed by ethnicity 10 March-18 April 2020

COVID-19 tests completed by ethnicity 10 March-18 April 2020

 

COVID-19 tests completed 10 March-18 April 2020

 

COVID-19 tests completed by age 10 March - 18 April 2020

If you are having difficulty reading the graphs below please use the pdf versions. 

Tests-completed-by-age-band-final2.pdf
Tests-completed-by-ethnicity-line-final.
pdf 
Test-by-ethnicity-stacked-final.pdf 

 

 

Families rally around their working nurses

When she gets home from working in Gisborne Hospital’s isolation ward each day effervescent nurse Carmen West likes nothing more than kicking off her shoes and catching up with family over a Milo.

21 Apr 2020

Nurse Carmen West is one of 20 nurses on a rotating roster working in Gisborne Hospital’s newly created isolation ward looking after people admitted for a variety of reasons. Image: Biddy Robb.

When she gets home from working in Gisborne Hospital’s isolation ward each day effervescent nurse Carmen West likes nothing more than kicking off her shoes and catching up with family over a Milo.


“They miss me because, well, a mum lifts the household doesn’t she?” she laughs. “But they don’t worry at all about where I’m working because they know I’m experienced and that I wouldn’t put them or my patients at risk. I certainly don’t want to be the weak link during this pandemic.”


Mrs West, Tainui, Tuwharetoa, is one of 20 nurses on a rotating roster working in Gisborne Hospital’s newly created isolation ward looking after people admitted for a variety of reasons.

Mrs West says she loves nursing and it’s a privilege to work in the isolation ward.


“I am surrounded by colleagues who know so much. In our ward there’s no reason for anyone to be at risk. The protocols aren’t complicated as long as you follow them and take care of each other and the patient’s safety.”


Mrs West says the support of her husband Wayne and his fantastic dinners, and the companionship of her children Ned (14) and Hine (10) make her work life balance easy during these unprecedented times.


Clinical nurse manager Louisa Fonoti says the West whanau are one of many proud families in the district rallying behind loved ones nursing during the COVID-19 pandemic.


“Our staff have really awesome families supporting them. Of course they have asked lots of questions of their working family member but we’ve been able to reassure them about the way we work and the measures we have in place that make Gisborne Hospital a safe place to be.”


Mrs Fonoti says nurses volunteered to work in the isolation ward, and did so with the support of their families.


“Nurses feel they have a duty of care to their patients and the community. In the background whānau are showing their support and not putting any extra demands on their family members at this time.”


Mrs Fonoti, Ngāti Porou, says for a variety of reasons a very small number of nurses opted not to work in the isolation ward during the national lockdown.


Reasons include they are immunocompromised or someone in their family is. Some nurses have been redeployed in other areas of the hospital or have chosen to take their annual leave. 
Mrs Fonoti has nursed for 25 years and returns each night to her own family bubble. She says “the decision was for each individual staff member to make.”


Three nurses have taken advantage of accommodation provided onsite at the hospital while they work in the isolation ward. Another nurse asked extended whānau to look after her young child while she continued to work at the hospital.


Mrs Fonoti says nurses working in the isolation ward are aged in their early 20s to their 60s. They work across three shifts with a handover period between each one.


She says most nurses she’s spoken to like Carmen West don’t think they’re doing anything particularly heroic. “We’re just taking each day at a time, we face any new hurdles, and find a solution.”


One of the nicest aspects of the COVID-19 health response is the opportunity to work with a different mix of nurses across the reconfigured wards, she says.


“While working in a new ward can feel a bit like living in someone else’s marae, it’s been a fantastic chance to work alongside nurses you wouldn’t normally see.”

COVID-19 Mobile Testing Clinics

Testing at mobile clinics in Gisborne and on the East Coast starts next week (Monday 20 April 2020) as the local fight continues to slow and reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19.

18 Apr 2020

Testing at mobile clinics in Gisborne and on the East Coast starts next week (Monday 20 April 2020) as the local fight continues to slow and reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19.

Mobile health clinics will initially be stationed at St Marks Church on Childers Road in Gisborne on Monday and Tuesday, and another one will be at Potaka School, Te Araroa Road in Potaka and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Kawakawa mai Tawhiti in Hicks Bay on Tuesday.

Walk-up swabbing is available during specified times for anyone who feels that they need to be tested for COVID-19.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Bruce Duncan says the clinics will have the flexibility to move around the district to areas of need, and into rural areas, if required.
“We are going to be moving around so please keep an eye on mobile clinic schedule so you know when it’s coming to a location near you.”

Dr Duncan says COVID-19 testing has been mobilised so more people can be tested. “We need to find out if there is any community spread in Tairawhiti? We are very grateful to people who come to get tested.”

Two Public Health Unit nurses and an administrator will be working out of the Gisborne-based clinic created in the mobile dental clinic.

In a successful collaboration between health providers, Ngāti Porou Hauora are managing the second testing clinic out of the Public Health Unit’s mobile ear clinic. It will be staffed by an NPH doctor and nurse with support staff from the Public Health Unit.

Staff working in the mobile clinics have been through infection control refresher courses and worked alongside War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre staff so they are armed with the latest information and best practice for managing people who want to be tested.

Dr Duncan says people wanting to be tested can drive or walk to the mobile testing clinic. They will be met at the entrance and told what to do next. It is useful to bring a phone if possible.

People will be phoned with their test results within a few days.

Dr Duncan reminded people that if they feel unwell or are sick enough that they would normally see their GP, they should telephone and make an appointment with their regular doctor rather than going to a testing clinic.

“General practices are safe places to receive the help you might need. The mobile testing clinic is for COVID-19 testing only.”

Where the mobile clinics are this week

Loving mum from a distance

Dedicated daughter Debbie Cordiner is one of hundreds of family members loving their parents from afar this month as aged care facilities manage the safety of their residents during lockdown.

16 Apr 2020

Val White waves to her daughter Debbie Cordiner

Photo credit 

Dedicated daughter Debbie Cordiner is one of hundreds of family members loving their parents from afar this month as aged care facilities manage the safety of their residents during lockdown.

There are around 300 older people living in the district’s six aged care facilities: Te Wiremu House Lifecare and Village, Dunblane Lifecare and Village, Beetham Lifestyle Village, Kiri Te Kanawa Retirement Village, Ngati Porou Hauora Charitable Trust Resthome, and Leighton House.

Hauora Tairawhiti nurse leader, primary and community, Heather Roberston says this district’s aged care facility staff were “collectively clever and ahead of the game” in preparation for what was to come with COVID-19.

“They had good processes in place and as well as having national organisations to learn from they have openly shared their ideas with each other.”

Even before the lockdown visitors were restricted to the facilities, newly arrived residents were isolated, shared meals were replaced with individual dining, and a low threshold for COVID-19 testing was put in place.

Ms Robertson says there are three levels of aged care offered in the district: rest home care, continuing care, and dementia care. Some short term respite care is also offered.

Staff working in the facilities include registered and enrolled nurses and health assistants as well as a strong group of administration staff.

“The nurses and their managers are all passionate about working with the elderly – the nurses are hungry for knowledge and willing to share their resources.

Debbie Cordiner’s 79-year-old mum Val White has been in a town house at Kiri te Kanawa for nearly five years. Used to regular family visitors the widowed mother of three is now restricted to shouted catch-ups across a safe threshold.

“We still go and wave across the divide,” says Mrs Cordiner. “Mum is doing well but it takes work from us as family, and the staff, to keep her up beat. “We have finally got her using an i-pad and she loves seeing her grandchildren and what they’re up to.”

Ms Cordiner says the staff at Kiri Te Kanawa have come up with innovative ways to keep the minds and bodies of residents active.

“They have been brilliant. We get lots of updates about what is happening and I know they are doing all they can to help the residents feel less isolated.”

Kiri te Kanawa manager Jenny Wood says they have shifted exercise sessions outside so residents can join in while maintaining social distancing. Areas for outside catch-ups have been created so residents can join a conversation with a coffee. And security has been beefed up outside the facility to ensure visitors are closely monitored.

“Happy hour in a bag on Thursday is something else we do,” says Mrs Wood. Normally happy hour is held in the Village Centre.

“But now our residents get a little bottle of something (people have their favourite – a beer or a wine or something non-alcoholic) and a bag of nuts or chippies and an activity and we drop it off to them.”

“We have also organised shopping for residents twice a week, we deliver staples like bread, milk and biscuits once a week, and we have installed Zoom to enable residents to keep in touch with their loved ones.”

As for Mrs White, Debbie Cordiner says her mum has found plenty to do with her time. As well as the phone calls, workout class, and coffee with the girls, she recently took her tiny granny car out for a slow spin along the internal road within Kiri te Kanawa.

“She told me she needed to turn the battery over,” laughs Mrs Cordiner. “You’d think she was talking about her V8, not her Toyota Corolla!”

Tairāwhiti has a probable case of COVID-19

Across the four cases we now have in Tairāwhiti there is a link to overseas travel.
For two of these people, there was international travel before the lockdown period.

16 Apr 2020

 

Tairāwhiti has a probable case of COVID-19.

 

Across the four cases we now have in Tairāwhiti (3 confirmed cases already reported, and today’s probable case), there is a link to overseas travel, says Hauora Tairāwhiti’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Osman David Mansoor. For two of these people, there was international travel before the lockdown period, and the remaining two are close contacts of international travellers. None of these cases are connected to the repatriation flight.  All four individuals concerned have strictly adhered to self-isolation protocols: there is no evidence of community transmission or spread beyond their respective bubbles.” 

 

For the probable case that is being reported today, the person is a woman in her 40s.

 

Public health has quickly investigated the circumstances and her contacts during incubation to identify the source of the virus. “The place of infection was overseas.”

 

“The woman has been in strict self-isolation before the lockdown and she has had no close contacts outside of her bubble. Groceries have been delivered to her door and she has not left her property since lockdown.”

 

“Transmission has been within bubbles, not spreading further. This is what the self-isolation and lockdown requirements are designed to do and, thanks to the efforts of these people, the virus has been prevented from spreading in Tairāwhiti”.

 

While having new cases in the community is concerning, it is not unexpected, Dr Mansoor confirmed. “The fact that more cases would be identified has always been a reality. As the symptoms can take two weeks to develop, and then pass between household members (with some having very minimal symptoms), it is not unexpected to have new cases occurring in the later stages of lockdown. This is also occurring elsewhere in New Zealand and is why we are all in lockdown for a minimum of four weeks.” 

 

No further details will be shared about any of the current cases in Tairawhiti, other than when we can confirm their recovery from COVID-19, says Hauora Tairāwhiti Chief Executive Jim Green.  “We must protect the right to privacy of people we are caring for and ensure that our community remains confident that we treat everybody’s health information as confidential.”

 

“We are so fortunate that all the people in Tairāwhiti who have received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis have adhered to strict self-isolation. In doing so they have protected us all.”   

 

“However, we don’t know for sure if COVID-19 is in our community from other sources. “That is the reason it is so important for us all to stay in our bubble and get tested if we have any symptoms.”

 

“Any one of us could have the virus and not be aware of it. If you have a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or loss of smell and taste you should arrange to be tested, and remain in isolation at home while awaiting the results.  

 

“People who get tested are our heroes. While testing rates in Tairāwhiti have doubled in recent weeks (512 tests completed as of 15 April), we still need to do more. It has been concerning to see negative comments made on social media about people who have done the right thing every step of the way. If this puts even one person off getting tested it is a tragedy.”

 

Phoning your GP is the best way to arrange testing. They can refer you to one of the three testing centres; the War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre, the Te Puia Hospital Assessment Centre, or the Waikohu Clinic in Te Karaka. The War Memorial Centre is also able to see people who turn up without a GP referral at certain times of the day: 9-11am for essential workers and 1-3pm for the general public.

 

All assessments for potential COVID symptoms, either by phone or at the assessment centres, are free.

 

The assessment centres have been designed to keep people with COVID-19 symptoms away from people using regular health services. This ensures your GP clinic and the hospital remain safe places to be seen if you have other health concerns. Don’t hesitate to phone your GP if you have any worries about your health: they will be able to give you advice over the phone and arrange to see you in person if needed.  

 

For more information covid19.govt.nz

 

For information on health services available in Tairāwhiti during Alert Level 4 covid19tairawhiti.org.nz

 

Updated case information is available here: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-current-cases

 


ENDS

 

 

 

What is a probable case of COVID-19?

 

The Ministry of Health definition is:

 

A case that meets the clinical criteria where other known aetiologies (cause of) that fully explain the clinical presentation have been excluded and either has laboratory suggestive evidence or for whom testing for COVID-19 is inconclusive

 

OR a is a negative result but a public health risk assessment indicates they should be classified as a probable case.

 

Resting ramped up in Tairawhiti

The number of COVID-19 tests done in the district has doubled since last week reflecting changes to the situation someone needs to be in before they are tested.

15 Apr 2020

The number of COVID-19 tests done in the district has doubled since last week reflecting changes to the situation someone needs to be in before they are tested.

The increase in tests may have also come about now that testing is free, says Hauora Tairāwhiti Chief Executive Jim Green.

As of Monday 13 April 461 people have been tested, compared with 239 just over a week ago on Sunday 5 April. On 13 March that figure was at 170 people.

“Since the case definition has been widened we have seen average testing numbers per day double in the district. The removal of barriers such as the requirement for overseas travel has certainly made a difference.”

Mr Green says in Tairāwhiti there has been a lower number of tests per head of population (0.97%) compared to national levels (1.3%).

There has also been a lower positivity rate (0.62%) compared to (1.66%) nationally.

He says the reasons for this include: fewer people coming or returning to the district from overseas; the relative isolation of the district; fewer people coming forward for assessment due to a low rate of respiratory illness within the district; and lower case numbers which means there is less contact tracing and subsequent testing.

“We have lowered the threshold of those being tested within the district so that those with even relatively minor respiratory systems are now being tested as per the revised case definition.”

Mr Green says high rates in some areas are due to the clusters being recorded there and as a result they have higher rates of testing.

Meanwhile, the War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre in Gisborne is now accepting self-referrals between the hours of 9am-11am (for essential workers) and 1pm and 3pm for the general public.

The centre also still accepts referrals from GPs and this is still the best way to visit the assessment centre as your GP knows you and your health background best.

Real time simulation helps hospital prepare

It may have been a simulation but the scene inside Gisborne Hospital on Wednesday looked all too real as anaesthetist Dr Leigh Willoughby and hospital staff worked to transfer a patient with COVID-19 from maternity to a newly created theatre for a caesarean.

3 Apr 2020

COVID-19 C-section simulation

It may have been a simulation but the scene inside Gisborne Hospital on Wednesday looked all too real as anaesthetist Dr Leigh Willoughby and hospital staff worked to transfer a patient with COVID-19 from maternity to a newly created theatre for a caesarean.  

The patient, a mannequin wearing a pregnancy suit, was created as a realistic way to simulate the look and feel of an emergency situation giving the broad range of hospital staff who would respond a realistic experience to test their procedures.

Hauora Tairawhiti Chief Medical Officer Dr Anne Kolbe says clinical staff have been working hard these past three weeks creating new processes and pathways for managing patients in the new COVID-19 world we live in.

“Staff are using all the international literature available from other countries and guidance from international and national colleagues to create plans, test them and revise them, so if they need to be operationalised staff can quickly activate their response.”

Yesterday’s real-time scenario involved an obstetrician, theatre staff, a paediatric nurse, midwives, a neonatal nurse, and an anaesthetist.

Dr Willoughby says the maternity simulation created conversations at nearly every point.

“Every environment is different, every patient is different, and so by doing the real-time simulation we were able to readjust, improve and calibrate what we were doing to protect staff and patient with the valuable insight of everyone there.”

 Other clinical simulations have been run over the past three weeks in the emergency department, the intensive care unit and in theatre with more to follow.

Dr Kolbe says “staff at Gisborne Hospital have prepared carefully and wisely” for the worst-case scenario during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But with our community uniting against COVID-19 it’s hoped a real-life hospital worst-case scenario response is not needed.”

Dr Kolbe’s plea to the Tairawhiti community is “Please play your part - it is important to stay home, stop the spread, and save lives.

Government repatriation flight into Gisborne

Domestic repatriation flights have been occurring across the country so whanau can complete quarantine closer to home.

6 Apr 2020

A chartered Government repatriation flight landed in Gisborne on Monday 6 April with 13 locals on board.

The passengers had all recently returned from overseas and were in Auckland prior to their departure for Gisborne on a chartered Air New Zealand aircraft. 

All the passengers have been in quarantine and remain in quarantine until their individual 14-day timeframes come to an end.

Domestic repatriation flights have been occurring across the country. The process is carefully managed in order to keep the various bubbles isolated from each other and the public.

Domestic repatriation involves police, defence, customs, aviation security, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and health personnel.

Health protection staff know where each passenger is now staying. Public health nurses plan to follow up with the passengers by phone until the end of their quarantine period. If telephone contact isn’t available health staff will ask for support from the police.

The terminal did not open.  The aircraft and its crew did not disembark and left Gisborne in the afternoon.

Hauora Tairawhiti chief executive Jim Green says every precaution was taken before the passengers left for their individual destinations.

“It has been a difficult time for anyone whose travel plans were caught up in the lockdown. These 13 people now find themselves in the comfort of their own home and with their own families.”

More repatriation flights are expected over the next few weeks.

Click here to see the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 repatriation of travellers advice

Tairawhiti has two new cases of COVID-19

Testing results have confirmed Tairāwhiti has two new confirmed cases of COVID-19. One is a male in his 50s, the other is a woman in her 40s. The two cases are unrelated, and not connected to the repatriation flight last week.

14 Apr 2020

Testing results have confirmed Tairāwhiti has two new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

One is a male in his 50s, the other is a woman in her 40s.

The two cases are unrelated, and neither are connected to the chartered Government repatriation flight which landed in Gisborne on Monday 6 April.

The origin of the virus is known for the woman.

We have already been in touch with her close contacts and they are self-isolating, says Hauora Tairāwhiti’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Osman David Mansoor.

“Public health will be investigating the man’s contacts during incubation to identify the source of the virus. He has been in self-isolation staying within his small bubble. He has had no close contacts outside of his bubble since lockdown.”

He was swabbed at the War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre late last week.

The man is in quarantine at home and is well.

“Please respect these people’s privacy. Receiving a diagnosis like this is stressful for them and those in their bubble. Please take heed of the Prime Minister’s advice. Be kind, have kind thoughts, kia kaha.”

“It is important that we are all supportive of those that get tested. We don’t want people to put off getting checked out because of what others reactions may be. There is no evidence of community spread, but anyone with respiratory symptoms should contact their GP.” 

Dr Mansoor says people need to trust the public health team. They are following up and directly contacting close contacts of people who tested positive for COVID-19. 

“There is a lot of work that goes into the background contact tracing of every case - we want to make sure we have identified everyone who potentially could have come into close contact with COVID-19. The best advice remains to stay at home, stay in your bubble and save lives.”

“If anyone has COVID-19 symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or loss of smell and taste, please contact your GP to be tested and remain at home in isolation while waiting for results,” Mr Mansoor advises.

The War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre in Bright Street Gisborne is open 9am -5pm daily for referral by GP and also takes walk-ins between 1pm – 3pm. Testing is also available at Te Puia Hospital Assessment Centre and at the Waikohu Clinic in Te Karaka. These two centres require contact via phone first please through the usual clinic/on call numbers.

All assessment centres have been designed to keep people with COVID-19 symptoms away from people using health services from other reasons.

All assessments, either by phone or at the assessment centres, are free.

For more information covid19.govt.nz

For information on health services available in Tairāwhiti during Alert Level 4 covid19tairawhiti.org.nz

Updated case information is available here: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-current-cases


ENDS

Having a baby in COVID times

Midwives are flexible and responsive health practitioners and as such are adapting to providing care at this challenging time, says Hau...(click to read more)

28 Mar 2020

Case definition change for city-based assessment centre

Doctors referring people with respiratory illness to the War Memorial Assessment Centre are following new case definition guidelines released by the Ministry of Health.

2 Apr 2020

Doctors referring people with respiratory illness to the War Memorial Assessment Centre are following new case definition guidelines released by the Ministry of Health.

The city-based centre has been set up by primary care practitioners and Hauora Tairawhiti and is strictly for patients with respiratory symptoms who have been referred there by their own GP.

Lead clinician Dr Fergus Aitcheson says local GPs will assess each of their patients to consider the risks and benefits for assessment and testing.

“We want to do as much testing as possible in our community to determine if we have community spread but we also need to focus our efforts on the people most likely to be positive to make the testing meaningful.”

“We aim to test those people who fit the typical clinical scenario of fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath or sore throat.”

Dr Aitcheson says testing will also focus on those people who have the biggest potential to transmit infection.

“There are some people who pose a higher risk if they are found to be COVID-19 positive, for example essential workers.”

“These people have bigger bubbles and therefore there are wider implications if they are positive. People who live in vulnerable settings like aged residential care or homes where there are more people, are also at higher risk for transmitting the disease.”

“By following the Ministry of Health’s guidelines we are more likely to get the best outcomes for our whole population.”

Anyone who is worried should contact their own GP by phone to receive the best advice for them.

Tairawhiti iwi distribute iwi packs

Tairāwhiti iwi have banded together this week to pack and distribute thousands of hygiene and sanitation packs for older people and those with chronic health conditions.

5 Apr 2020

Ronald Nepe, Chief Executive  Te Runanga o Turanganui a Kiwa shows off his box-m

Ronald Nepe, Chief Executive Te Runanga o Turanganui a Kiwa shows off his box-making skills

Tairāwhiti iwi have banded together this week to pack and distribute thousands of hygiene and sanitation packs for older people and those with chronic health conditions.

It’s one of the many initiatives that Tairāwhiti iwi: Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Te Aitanga a Mahaki, and Ngāti Porou, are rolling out as part of their joint COVID-19 Response Plan.

Pakeke and kaumatua, people with chronic health conditions, and whānau with high needs have been prioritised to receive the pack which includes gloves, scourers, tissues, wipes, cloths, detergent soap, and toilet paper.

Athena Emmerson-Kapa from Te Rūnanga o Tūranganui a Kiwa says this is an all of iwi response and one of the “health, help, heating and harm-free initiatives” the collective has taken on board. 

Dozens of essential service workers connected to iwi health and social service providers were rostered in teams of 8-10 people, to assemble the hygiene packs at the central logistics and distribution centre established at Te Tini o Porou, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou headquarters in Gisborne.

“We’ve been working in shifts so as to keep everyone safe. Once the packs are made up they are distributed by accredited Whānau Ora providers to whānau within their own communities.”

“They’ve been delivered by staff who have Level 4 essential service credentials to ensure there are no extra vehicles on the road.”

Ms Emmerson-Kapa says the packs are being delivered from Wairoa to Matawai and north to Potaka.

“We’re pulling together for our communities during this challenging time,” adds Ms Emmerson-Kapa.

More pack contents are expected in the district later this week and when that happens Ms Emmerson-Kapa says the united team of workers will begin packing again.

The pack contents were provided to the Horouta Whānaunga Collective by Te Pou Matakana, the North Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, based in Auckland. The Horouta Whānaunga collective comprises  of Whānau  Ora providers  across the East Coast and Wairoa.

Around the country 30,000 packs have been given to 81 Whānau Ora provider collectives to distribute.

Nurse creates bubble of one to save lives

ASSESSMENT centre nurse Keisha Bartlett has given up cuddles and war games with her sons and created a bubble of one while she works on the health frontline.

11 Apr 2020

ASSESSMENT centre nurse Keisha Bartlett

ASSESSMENT centre nurse Keisha Bartlett has given up cuddles and war games with her sons and created a bubble of one while she works on the health frontline.

Her story of sacrifice matches that of many health workers around the district as they respond to the country’s COVID-19 emergency.

Keisha, Rongowhakaata, Ngati Porou, Tuhoe, is working at the city respiratory assessment centre at the War Memorial Theatre.

Already highly trained in infection control measures as a theatre nurse Keisha’s new frontline job required further training so she and her colleagues could keep patients and themselves safe at the centre.

“Keisha works rotating seven-day shifts alongside 12 other nurses and 13 doctors seeing patients with respiratory illness referred by their GP.”

The nurses have a number of roles. They collect people from their vehicles and help them put on a mask. They escort them across the road to the theatre and gather information from them once inside. The person is assessed by the doctor and the nurses help with further assessments and tests if needed.

Keisha says many visitors, some of whom are unwell, feel anxious and she seeks to reassure them they are in good hands.

Outside of normal work, Keisha is bringing up her energetic boys aged six and four with the help of extended whanau.

“I discussed with my parents the need to isolate myself if I was working at the centre and what that would mean,” says the 33-year-old. “I didn’t want my parents to get sick and so I have left my boys there and created a bubble of one.”

Keisha doesn’t shy away from talking about the emotional layer her situation adds to an already charged environment. When she gets home she pores over videos of what her children have done each day. This week her boys have built forts with their koro and made jelly with their nan.

“Yes I feel disconnected and yes I miss them but they know mum is helping sick people and my family is supportive of what I do.”

Keisha’s parents Tina and Phil Karaitiana are enormously proud of their daughter and support her decision to create a bubble of one while she works.

“I admire her and the sacrifice she has made,” says Mrs Karaitiana. “With her background and her skills, she along with all the other nurses, are so valuable for our community during this time.”

“I think my girl has found her calling.”

Until changes in how New Zealanders live and work are announced Keisha is resigned to the temporary new life she’s living. She’s missing nerf gun wars with her six-year-old and watching ships at Eastland Port with her youngest.

“I do get upset but I’ve got good friends and family support. All that other good stuff will just have to wait.”

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Easier access to COVID-19 testing

Testing is now available at the War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms – and you don’t need a GP referral.

10 Apr 2020

Testing is now available at the War Memorial Theatre Assessment Centre to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms – and you don’t need a GP referral.

If you or someone in your family has any respiratory illness symptoms including a cough, breathlessness, sore throat, sniffles, fever or loss of smell or taste, you can now walk-in between 1pm-3pm to see a doctor, and get swabbed if necessary.

Unwell essential workers requiring assessment can still continue to visit without an appointment between 9am-11am.

The centre is open seven days a week 9am to 5pm including every day of the Easter long weekend.

Lead clinician Dr Fergus Aitcheson says greater numbers of unwell people in Tairāwhiti are being tested to ensure the district is picking up any new cases of COVID-19.

“We’re still accepting referrals from GPs and this is still the best way to visit the assessment centre. They know you and your health background and they can arrange the test for a specific time and ensure you get the treatment you need. There is no charge to patients for COVID-related GP phone consults.”   

But walk-ins are now also available. It’s important we get a full picture of what is happening for the district so we can be sure that the infection rate is not higher than our current number of positive tests.

“Without more testing we cannot respond appropriately to the threat.”

Dr Aitcheson reminded people that come to the assessment centre to bring their cell phone so they know when they are due to be escorted into the War Memorial Theatre.

“Anyone tested will need to stay home from work until 48 hours after their respiratory illness symptoms have resolved, regardless of the test result.”

The advice to people living on the coast enrolled with Ngāti Porou Hauora suffering from respiratory symptoms is to contact their usual GP clinic and they will be directed what to do next.

Hauora Tairāwhiti Chief Executive Jim Green says reducing barriers to testing is part of the ongoing effort across the region to ensure people who are showing potential COVID-19 symptoms are undergoing checks for the disease.

“Although nearly all the tests return a negative result, it is still important that we test wherever people demonstrate potential symptoms, in line with the Ministry of Health’s case definition.”

Mr Green says there are plenty of swabs for those who need testing. TLab Gisborne supplies new swabs to the centre each day replacing what has been used the day before. It maintains a supply of 200 in stock here in Gisborne at all times and sources its swabbing kits from the TLab base in Palmerston North.

The lockdown has been a very effective measure for containing the virus and added that Gisborne Hospital was prepared should there be an increase in cases, he added.

Mr Green reminded the public Gisborne Hospital is still open for emergencies. If you or someone you know is suffering a stroke, heart attack, severe breathing difficulties or has an injury, it’s important to seek help.

“If you do have to come to the emergency department you will be met at the door and told what to do next. Please, if you are experiencing an emergency – Gisborne Hospital is a safe place to be.”

For non-emergency health care contact your GP. All medical centres are open over Easter or have an after-hours service. They will do a virtual (phone or video) consultation. If they do need to see you, medical centres are safe places to be.

Ends

What?

Covid-19 tests are available at the War Memorial Assessment Centre.

Who for?
Anyone experiencing respiratory illness symptoms including a cough, breathlessness, sore throat, sniffles, fever or loss of smell or taste.

When?

  • 9am-11am for essential service workers only.
  • 1pm-3pm for anyone without an appointment
  • The appointment time you have been given if referred by a GP.

Where? War Memorial Assessment Centre, Bright St. Please enter from Kahutia St.

Please bring:

Your cell phone so we can let you know when the nurse is ready to escort you in.