With the news that Golden Bay has its first confirmed case of Covid-19 – a woman who recently returned from overseas – the reality of the global pandemic is hitting home. The Bay, for all its geographic isolation, is clearly not immune to the spread of the disease and this latest development underlines the importance of the Government’s message about remaining in lockdown.
Golden Bay’s case, like all those nationwide, is subject to the Ministry of Health’s strict procedure. This begins with notification to a medical officer of health in the Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service (NMPHS) before the infected individual is interviewed to determine risk factors, including travel. Once this is done, NMPHS and the national close contact tracing service, undertake contact tracing to reach close contacts – the people most at risk – as they determine necessary. Every case is monitored by NMPHS until a medical officer of health has determined that it is safe for the person to come out of isolation.
General Manager Golden Bay Community Health Linzi Birmingham, says it’s essential that those infected are treated with compassion. “It’s very important that people with Covid are not harassed and are supported. Also, so that people with symptoms do not then hesitate to get help, for fear of a negative reaction, community speculation etc.”
The Bay has been preparing for this moment for several weeks. Additional special facilities have been added to Golden Bay Community Health including a Community-Based Assessment Centre (CBAC) for infection testing, as well as a temporary isolation room. Linzi says that the CBAC is currently open for one hour a day. “The CBAC is staffed with a doctor and a nurse. We ask people to phone the clinic first before coming in however, so they can be triaged – also called ‘screening’ – by a doctor. During this process the doctor will assess if someone needs to be tested at a CBAC.”
Regarding the other new facility, Linzi says: “We have not had to use the isolation room yet, but it is stocked and prepared and ready for use if required.”
As there are currently no ventilators or intensive care units in Golden Bay, any seriously ill Covid-19 patients will be transferred to Nelson Hospital after being stabilised.
GBCH has taken measures to reduce the risk of spreading infection, including locking the front doors, closing the rest home to visitors and rolling out its new online patient portal My Indici (see article on page 4). A further mitigation measure is the administering of seasonal flu jabs – a programme that has been interrupted by a temporary shortage of vaccine – but not before some of the most vulnerable residents had received it. “We have made a good start on it by vaccinating some people in the priority groups – people most at risk if they were to contract influenza,” explains Linzi. “These include people aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions and young children with respiratory illness.”
She said the health centre would soon be offering drive-through carpark-based clinics to safely deliver flu vaccinations to priority at-risk groups before being made more widely available. “We have used our current vaccine stock but have been notified that more will arrive in early to mid-April. When they arrive, we will continue vaccinating the priority groups using ‘drive-through’ clinics. From that point, vaccination will be available to people outside of the priority groups for a fee from their GP.”
With the Covid-19 situation constantly evolving, Linzi points to GBCH social media bulletins as an up-to-date source of basic information. “We are keeping our community updated via Facebook, so please follow us if you don’t already.” And she urges people to remain calm and understand. “Please be patient and kind to healthcare workers, including reception staff, during this challenging time.”
Linzi says the Bay’s health workers are doing everything in their power to keep the community safe. “Our staff are doing an amazing job here. Some things – such as the availability of the flu vaccine – are not within their control, so thanks for your understanding.”
The GBCH general manager is one of the leaders on the Community Coordination Committee and sees first-hand the efforts being made by the group. “I am just so impressed with the community spirit and how everyone is working together, it’s very humbling.”
For more information on regional Covid-19 health, NMH daily updates are posted on its website: https://www.nmdhb.govt.nz/quicklinks/about-us/emergency-management-and-planning/covid-19/
Article and photo: Jo Richards