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Being Prepared For COVID-19 In Northland

Dr Wilkinson has been setting up the clinical response to ensure the Northland DHB is ready for the potential for Covid-19 to change the way we work.

She says there are several aspects to a clinical response:

  • Being ready for an increase in the number of patients that we have in our hospital
  • Being ready for a different type of workload
  • Being ready with appropriate training for staff.

“We need to be ready for more patients with respiratory illness, more patients who need to be isolated from other patients and more people that might need a higher level of care with severe respiratory illness,’ she says.

“This in turn means that we need training for our staff, particularly in using personal protection equipment and to understand what support patients might need if they become unwell. We need to be as ready as we can be, so that our staff have the ability to keep themselves and their patients safe.”

“We have been preparing ever since we heard about this virus in January this year, thinking about what our response should be both locally and nationally. Once we got our first case in New Zealand, it was obvious that we needed to ramp that up more, in changing the way our hospital works.

“There always needs to be a balance in how we do that; we need to consider should we change things early and not being able to continue what we normally do in our business versus being prepared ahead of time so that we do not end up overwhelmed and not ready for a change in what we do.“

Dr Wilkinson believes we have got the balance pretty right. “I think we are in a situation where we are as ready as we can be – but we haven’t stopped our usual work too early. It’s a difficult thing – it’s getting the timing right.”

She asks all staff to remember to be kind to one another, be kind to our patients and be kind to our patients’ relatives who can’t visit at the moment to keep their loved ones up to date with what’s happening with their family.

Dr Wilkinson is also asking staff to listen to the advice that we are getting from our public health teams. “This is their job. This is their expertise and what they prepare for,” she says.

“I think we are all going to need to be very strong during this time. We will all need to show a Northland spirit to enable our people in our region to be as well as possible through this event.”

“This is a very difficult time for a lot of our staff, including myself, being separated from their families. I know a lot of staff have made huge sacrifices to keep their families safe. For some, that has meant not living with their families at present. I think others are very worried about their parents or older family members and what effects Covid-19 could have if it did spread in the community.

“So, again, that kindness to each other and knowing that everyone is going through a lot of different thoughts and processes is important as we communicate with each other and carry on our day-to-day work.”

Head of the Department of Medicine for the Northland DHB, Dr Lucille Wilkinson graduated from the University of Otago in 1990. She is an Internal Medicine specialist, with a subspecialty interest in Maternal Medicine. Lucille trained at National Women's and Auckland City Hospital. She holds a specialist position in both General Internal Medicine and Obstetric Medicine at Auckland City Hospital and is a Senior Clinical Lecturer at Auckland Medical School. She is married with three children.

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