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Health Advice Following West Coast Floods – Update 6: Friday 23 July 2021 – 6.00pm

Philip Wheble, Incident Controller, West Coast DHB:

This past week has been extremely challenging for the people of Buller. The coordinated efforts of emergency services, Civil Defence Emergency Management and our own staff have been nothing short of remarkable.

I am not going to mention individuals, but to the team on duty at Buller Health on Saturday night who moved swiftly, but safely to evacuate and re-home patients, this was an amazing feat.

The NZ Defence Force and Fire and Emergency NZ played vital roles in supporting our services – thanks to both these teams.

Special thanks to Club Buller for allowing us to continue to take over their facility as a makeshift medical ward. Thank you too to the Masonic Lodge for allowing us to set up shop in their stunning building at 51 Russell Street, and repurpose it from a vaccination centre to a drop-in general practice facility.

As we operate as an integrated health system, I also want to acknowledge the professionalism (and extremely long hours) of those working in other areas of the West Coast health system, including our PHO colleagues, St John, Red Cross, the team at Te Nikau in Greymouth and our colleagues in Canterbury who have all pitched in to support our Buller whānau.

As the largest employer on the West Coast many of our people have been personally impacted by the flood, and despite this they have put their own needs on the back-burner to ensure health services have continued to be provided in Buller.

I hope this weekend will provide many of you a chance to catch your breath, take stock, and catch up on some sleep. I know the reality for many of our Buller team will be more work cleaning out damaged properties and making plans for the future. If you can, please schedule some down time and do something for yourself with people you care about.

Please remember we’re all in this together and it’s ok to seek support if you’re not feeling alright. There is a lot of help and wellbeing support available, so please don’t be hesitant in coming forward and asking for help.

Be kind to yourself and others.

You can call 0800 768 348 to access help and advice from the response team. Call to be connected to welfare advice or answers to any questions you may have about the recovery efforts.

The weeks ahead will continue to be challenging so thank you in advance for everyone’s contribution to the recovery efforts.


Progress continues on the clean-up and drying of Buller Health and the Boilerhouse. One boiler is now up-and-running with the second expected to be functioning by Sunday.

Work is continuing on the cabling and heating ducts within the hospital

The Hospital kitchen will be functional from Monday 26 July and as yet we don’t have a firm date when health services will be able to move back to the facility.

We will, however, keep the community updated on progress.

There is currently one patient being cared for in the makeshift ward facility at Club Buller. Acutely unwell people continue to be diverted to Te Nikau Hospital in Greymouth.

Meals on Wheels

Thank you to the New Zealand Army for stepping in this week to ensure we could continue to provide fresh nourishing Meals on Wheels to recipients in our community.

With access to the hospital kitchen from Monday, our WellFood team will be able to resume responsibility for this service along with our valued Red Cross volunteers who continue to deliver to recipients.

Keep up your good hygiene habits and remember to scan in wherever you are

With many people still in makeshift accommodation, bunking in with whānau and friends, or living in close quarters in a welfare centre, the need for scrupulous hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes, disposing of tissues in a bin and staying away from others if you’re feeling under the weather is so important.

Washing and drying your hands or using hand gel is essential:

  • after using the toilet
  • before eating
  • after coughing or sneezing into your hand
  • after coming into contact with flood water
  • after handling items sodden by the floods

If you have a cough or cold please wear a mask or face covering when around other people.

And if you start feeling worse please seek medical attention sooner rather than later.

Finally, please keep scanning in wherever you go, particularly to places where large numbers of people are gathering.

Need health care?

If you are registered with Coast Medical, they are still open.

Please contact the Coast Medical team on 03 789 5000 to arrange an appointment, and after-hours call the usual practice number for free health advice. After hours you’ll be put through to a nurse who can tell you what to do and where to go if you need to be seen.

If you or your whānau are registered with Buller Medical Centre and need to see a doctor or nurse a pop-up drop-in Urgent Care clinic has opened at 51 Russell Street, Westport. No appointments are necessary and everyone is welcome. If you have any respiratory symptoms please wear a mask or face covering.

The drop-in clinic is staffed by a GP and nurses and is open this weekend from 10am – 1pm on Saturday and Sunday. The drop in clinic at 51 Russell Street will also be open next week from 10am – 4:30pm.

*Note the entrance to the clinic is at the rear of the building so please use the driveway on the left-hand side of the building (next to the Salvation Army hall).

People enrolled at Buller Medical can still access free health advice after hours by calling 03 788 9277 and following the instructions on the answerphone.

If you usually receive home support from any of our home-based care services and haven’t heard from us, please get in touch via the usual phone number(s) if you require any support.

If it’s an emergency, please call 111 – emergency services are operating

For health advice at any time

· Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 – calls are answered 24/7. If you need to be seen, they will tell you what to do and where to go.

· For wellbeing support you can talk to a counsellor free of charge, call or text 1737 any time of the day or night.

· For pregnancy support and advice over the phone, please call your LMC/midwife.

· If you have questions about your young child or baby’s health phone Plunketline on 0800 933 922 to speak to a Plunket nurse.

· You can also visit our HealthInfo website for trusted health advice on a range of issues.

· Buller Pharmacy in Westport, at 168 Palmerston Street is open for over the counter medications and health advice.

· Talk confidentially about a meth or P-related issue or problem - 0800 METH HELP 0800 6384 4357

· The Alcohol Drug Helpline offers support to anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s drug or alcohol use 0800 787 797

Information for people with outpatient appointments at Buller Health or GP appointments at Buller Medical (the primary care practice) next week

  • If you have a pre-booked appointment with a GP or nurse at Buller Medical or an outpatient appointment at Buller Heath next week please consider it postponed – unless you hear otherwise.
  • A limited number of outpatient appointments are going ahead at an alternative location, and anyone affected will be contacted directly.
  • Please note that there will be no X-Ray facility at Buller Health next week
  • If you need an urgent blood test or repeat prescriptions please visit the temporary Urgent Care clinic.
  • The regular Monday Buller Sexual Health Clinic has been cancelled for the next two weeks (26 July and 2 August).
  • All COVID-19 vaccinations in Westport next week have been postponed and will be rebooked as soon as possible. People with appointments are being contacted individually.
  • The Karamea COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Karamea is going ahead on Monday 26th and Tuesday 27 July.

Before school checks postponed - West Coast B4School Check (B4SC) Clinic update

Our B4SC clinic planned for Wednesday, 28 July in Westport’s Salvation Army Hall has been postponed until Wednesday, 25 August.

Wellbeing support

This week has been an emotional rollercoaster for many of us. Please remember it’s ok to ask for help. In-person support is available via the welfare teams at the Hubin the NBS Theatre – please make the most of all the support options available to you at this time. Your general practice team is also available and you can text or phone 1737 to speak to a trained counsellor 24/7.

Please remember to keep checking in on those around you – we cope better together than alone.

You can access local welfare and wellbeing support, along with practical advice by calling 0800 768 348.

Visitor restrictions

We currently have visitor restrictions in place to help prevent the spread of illness at all DHB facilities. We are requesting that only one person at a time comes in to visit, and that no children come in to visit our facilities. Exceptions will be made on compassionate grounds and should be discussed with the nurse in charge of the area you want to visit.

We’re recommending people wear a mask or other face covering (it can be a fabric mask or scarf but must cover your nose and mouth) when visiting family, whānau or friends at our facilities. We also ask that people only visit our facilities for essential purposes only and stay home if they are unwell.

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