Anxiety in Gisborne is at a level that “none of us have ever felt before”, says Hauora Tairawhiti chief executive officer Jim Green.
The anxiety was shared by medical and non-medical professionals alike, “because we have never faced this type of situation”.
He was speaking this week at the Hauora Tairawhiti board's monthly meeting held by video conference because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Mr Green said he was helped by expert advice and medical professionals sharing knowledge and taking lessons from countries more afflicted by Covid-19.
“None of us is absolutely confident we know exactly what to do and that the decisions we make now will be shown to be the right ones in the next week or two.
“That comes from the Prime Minister down to all of us.”
Turning to “the Prime Minister's themes”, when anxiety existed at the current level, tensions arose, he said.
“We have to think and make sure we are kind and understanding.”
Mr Green said Hauora Tairawhiti had been planning for Covid-19 for some time and had “upped the ante” in the last two weeks.
But planning had turned up another notch, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's speech on Monday introducing alert level 3 precautions and, starting from 11.59pm last night, level 4 precautions.
The hospital had been reconfigured on the first floor to allow for the flow of patients either suspected of having Covid-19, or confirmed as having Covid-19.
These patients would be treated in the former medical ward 5.
The former surgical ward 8, at the opposite end of the first floor, would take non-Covid-19 medical patients.
The two types of patients would be kept away from each other.
In the middle of the first floor, Intensive Care/Coronary Care had been divided into a Covid-19 section and a section for other patients.
On the top floor, where the orthopaedic and rehabilitation wards were based, many patients had been discharged and there would be no formal rehabilitation for the time being.
That area would become the surgical ward.
Mr Green said international modelling showed around 80 percent of infected people had a mild Covid-19 illness and recovered with management at home.
About 20 percent of people who got Covid-19 would require hospitalisation in some form. Of those people, around 5 percent needed ventilation.
Mr Green told The Herald those statistics varied by country and by how the pandemic was managed.
“These are very general figures and nothing that would predict with any certainty what will happen in our country.”
He told board members Hauora Tairawhiti had bought another ventilator and it was probably the last one in the country.
The country's full lockdown was aimed at severely limiting the number of Covid-19 cases and “flattening the curve” so the health system could cope with the demand.
Mr Green told board members every person with scheduled surgery or an outpatient visit had been notified their appointment had been cancelled.
Patients would be contacted if their clinician believed their elective treatment was urgent.
Services such as oncology and dialysis would continue.
Iwi providers were gearing up to ensure people were getting their flu vaccinations and being advised on how to remain safe.
Primary care providers were aiming to have 70 percent of their consultations by phone or video.
Mr Green said it appeared to be working well but there were many people approaching their GP for prescriptions, which was the type of service that could be performed by phone or electronically.
Pharmacies were an essential service and would remain open.
City Medical has told its patients it had been directed to switch to virtual consultations immediately.
Patients could ring and book a phone consultation while a face-to-face consultation could be arranged if deemed necessary.
The centre was otherwise continuing to operate with usual staffing levels, opening hours and charges.
Mr Green said swabbing services were operating at Three Rivers Medical Centre, Te Puia Springs Hospital and at Te Karaka next to Waikohu Medical Centre.
People needed to be referred by their GP or by Healthline.
No one had returned a positive swab.
Mr Green said the virus was spread by droplets spread by coughs, sneezes or talking, and ended up on surfaces and hands.
That made handwashing with soap and water crucial.
A scarf around your face could be used instead of a mask while out in the community. A surgical mask was not required, he said.
The scarf should be washed after use.
Maintaining the two-metre social distance gap was also important.
Mr Green said Hauora Tairawhiti was on target for 90 percent of staff to receive their flu vaccination.
It was crucial for members of the public aged over 65 and those with a long-term condition, in particular, to get vaccinated.
The public should rely on the Ministry of Health website for the most reliable information, Mr Green said.