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SDHB Daily Media Update – Thursday 9 April 2020

Please note we won’t be sending daily media updates over the Easter break. Queries can be sent to and we will respond to them as soon as we can. Thank you for all your support sharing messages about COVID-19 with our communities.

New cases in Southern

The Ministry of Health announced six new COVID-19 cases in the Southern region today, bringing the region’s total to 200. Confirmed and probable cases are combined for this and future totals, to match Ministry case reporting.

Please note the previous case reported in the Waitaki district was a probable case. It has now been confirmed to not be a case of Covid-19. Today’s results include six new cases, minus this case, to make a total increase of five in our district.

For a breakdown by Territorial Authority please visit the Southern Health website

Bluff cluster confirmed international travel link

The Bluff Wedding cluster has now been confirmed as having a link with international travel. We do not discuss the circumstances of individual cases unless there is a public health reason to do so.

In this instance we have been able to reach out to the close contacts of all confirmed cases through our contact tracing teams, and are asking those people to remain in self-isolation.

We thank everyone for providing support to and respecting the privacy of everyone affected by COVID-19.

Southern COVID-19 testing

Swabs are sent to the Dunedin laboratory by courier in batches, pick up times vary and this can affect processing time and result reporting.

CBACs testing facilities are OPEN this weekend, but at reduced hours (see below).

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by Public Health South and contact tracing will begin.

If a patient is swabbed in a practice the GP will inform the patient of a negative result.

If a patient is swabbed in a CBAC WellSouth will notify the patient of a negative result. The patient’s GP/general practice will also be notified of the result.

It is understandable that those waiting for results will feel anxious. They can rest assured that results will be provided as soon as they are available. Anyone who has been tested should stay in self-isolation until results are confirmed.

CBAC Opening Hours - Easter weekend

Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown Community Based Assessment Centres (CBACs) will continue to conduct COVID-19 testing during the long holiday weekend.

Hours are:
Dunedin and Queenstown (Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday) 10am – 2pm 
Invercargill for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (Southland Anniversary Day) 10am – 2pm.

If there is demand, however, CBACs may finish later.

Please do not self-present. If you are unwell, please call Healthline to be referred to a CBAC.

022 010 3860
022 001 7624
022 010 4598

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

We have received several media inquiries around PPPE supplies. The follow comments are attributable to Dr Nigel Millar, Chief Medical Officer, SDHB:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a critical part of the care of patients with suspected, probable or actual COVID19. It is essential for health care workers who come into contact with people in this situation. Southern DHB is committed to delivering PPE to all the services that need it, which we do as part of the national response on behalf of the Ministry of Health.

There are two parts to this system the first is supply – making sure that there is enough in the stores and coming down the chain from suppliers and in turn from overseas to them. This part is being managed by the Ministry of Health supported by other government agencies.

The second part is the supply system. The rapid turnover to multiple users is a huge step up for our supply team but they have taken it on and are working hard and long hours to make it work.

In an emergency it is important to have stock on hand in case of an urgent larger need somewhere in the system and the best place for the majority of stock is at the centre. Then we should do all we can to provide regular deliveries to users that ensure their needs are met.

It would be imprudent to have large stocks out with users because they could not be mobilised if needed elsewhere. This may give the impression that there is rationing – this is not the case. The task is to ensure the most flexible and responsive system. It is very disappointing when we do not meet need, or leave people concerned about when the next delivery is. We will continue to improve the system responding to issues by tightening up the system.

Some of this is very new to many people involved in health care – including frontline home care workers who have for many years held our health and care system together through their dedicated care for vulnerable people. Please be assured that the priority to protect home care workers, and those involved in supporting vulnerable people, is as important as for anyone else. We recognise that everyone who works in health needs to be safe and that they have their own families which they will feel concerned about. We are supplying lots of new agencies and services and everyone is doing all they can to make it work well.

We are all working to the same aim – a safe and effective care system for people who are suspected of having of have COVID which includes protecting staff as they work.

Contact Tracing

We have received a number of media inquiries about contact tracing.

We have 100 people involved in contact tracing currently across the SDHB region. This includes a range of staff from Public Health South, the wider DHB as well as external agencies such as local councils. We have another 35 people available to assist from the wider DHB, including from the University of Otago, if we need to scale up our teams further. All staff from external agencies, as well as the majority of the SDHB staff, are working from home. Those who are working in the Public Health offices are practicing social distancing by making sure that workstations are at least two metres apart, performing good hand hygiene protocols, and making sure that workstations are wiped down at the end of each shift.

The lab notifies our Medical Officers of Health with the results of any testing. Any positive cases are assigned to a Case Manager, who makes contact with the case and gathers information, including a list of people that the case has been in contact with.

The list of people is passed onto a Contact Trace Lead, who assigns groups of close contacts to each of the contact tracers in their team. The contact tracers call each individual and, if they are deemed a close contact, then a 14 day follow up begins. The follow up either entails the contact completing a daily online survey, or alternatively people are able to receive a daily phone call from our contact tracers to check in with them. The daily communication with cases and contacts enables us to monitor symptoms and ensure testing, or medical assessments, are done as needed.

The number of contacts per case varies, and now that the country is in Level 4 lockdown we are seeing fewer close contacts associated with cases. The number of phone calls being conducted each day by our tracers varies. On average a phone call can take up to 20 minutes.

It is a challenging time for everyone and we are continuously updating protocols and procedures to make sure we are working as effectively and efficiently as we can with the resources we have available to us. At times it can be challenging getting hold of people in the first instance. If we have exhausted all contacting options then we are able to have Police assist us with tracking people down, although to date we have not had to ask the Police to assist us in this way.

Our cases and contacts have been great to deal with. It is understandably a very stressful and anxious time for everyone. The time that our contact tracers are spending on the phone with the individuals is providing an opportunity to answer any questions or concerns that the individuals may have, and providing reassurance that we are here for them if they require any form of assistance.

The collaboration of Public Health South, the wider SDHB and other organisations has allowed the expansion of the workforce to be able to keep our community safe across the Southern district. The Southern community is supporting each other in every way possible to make sure that friends and whanau are safe. Everyone from essential workers through to our Southern community are dedicated to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

© Scoop Media

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