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Health orgs join forces to keep vulnerable people isolating with COVID safe

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board staff redeploying during COVID times to areas of highest need come in all forms, and the positive impacts are far reaching.

The DHB has been redeploying both clinical and non-clinical staff across health services to support the Omicron wave of community cases, as well as cases in the hospital setting.

Bobi Comrie and Craig Timmings, senior security officers at the DHB, put their hands up to redeploy to help primary health organisation (PHO) Health Hawke’s Bay, by providing a transport service for high risk COVID-positive residents. This supports these patients to continue isolating safely, as well as logistics for busy primary care providers.

"We had the capacity to redeploy, and it’s great to be able to provide a service during these incredibly busy times that is making a meaningful difference," says Ms Comrie.

Phillipa Blakey, Chief Executive of Health Hawke’s Bay, says the PHO needed to find a way to quickly deliver resources such as pulse oximeters out to homes, and the DHB stepped in to help.

The DHB transport service is about keeping everyone safe, including people isolating at home, general practice staff, and patients visiting the practices, Ms Blakey says.

"It’s also keeping people out of hospital," she adds.

Ms Blakey says most people with COVID don’t need medical care but others can get really sick, such as the elderly or people with multiple health conditions.

"Health Hawke’s Bay created a risk-stratified list that is updated daily for each practice. The list tells practices which of their patients have tested positive, and of those, which are most likely to need clinical care," she says.

GPs and practice nurses call their COVID-positive patients, using the list to prioritise those at highest risk from COVID. If their assessment identifies that a patient needs additional monitoring because of respiratory symptoms, they request a pulse oximeter from Health Hawke’s Bay. The DHB’s transport team will then deliver it with instructions to the patient’s home.

Pulse oximeters monitor oxygen levels in the blood and are easy to use. The general practice team checks what the monitors are showing during regular patient check-ins (via phone). "If that reading drops down low, the patient could need additional care, such as medication or admission to the hospital," Ms Blakey says.

The DHB’s transport team does a pickup from Health Hawke’s Bay twice daily and sometimes delivers to 30 households per day. They go as far as Kereru, Eskdale and Waimārama. They also take COVID-positive patients to hospital for essential health services such as dialysis, self-isolation quarantine or home once discharged from hospital.

Mr Timmings says residents are grateful for the support. "It’s comforting for them, knowing that they are protected by the DHB - that we actually care."

The white transporter van is big and spacious with a screen separating the driver and passenger areas. The transport team wears full personal protective equipment and the van is thoroughly cleaned in-between each drop-off.

Ms Blakey says the transport service is among a raft of initiatives across the region helping ease COVID-related pressure on critical health services as well as supporting whānau to manage safely at home.

"These include food and care package deliveries from Taiwhenua hubs, supported by Tihei Mauri Ora, medication drop-offs from pharmacies, a DHB nurse-led outreach that does home visits, as well as the redeployment of many PHO and DHB staff to help plug the gaps," she says. "The teamwork across us, the DHB, Ministry of Social Development, Tihei Mauri Ora, the Taiwhenua hubs and councils has been just amazing."

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