Our focus on preparation for the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues. The outbreak of omicron in our community will place demand on our hospital system as we know it will rapidly infect many people.
It’s pleasing to see the commencement of the paediatric COVID-19 vaccination this week. Vaccination is our key defence against becoming seriously unwell with COVID, and the immunisation of tamariki in our community will help reduce the spread of the virus by increasing the number of people in Counties Manukau protected through vaccination. We know in fully immunised people omicron will be a mild upper respiratory infection so most people will be able to manage and self-care at home.
When the community outbreak of omicron eventuates, we will continue to provide health services as best we can but like all employers throughout New Zealand, it is likely our workforce will be impacted as our people will contract omicron and need to remain home and off work.
We will be prioritizing staffing of all our critical services. However, we also intend to continue with as much elective surgery and as many outpatient clinics by following good infection prevention precautions where we have the resources, like hospital capacity and people, to deliver the services and care.
This year we will see the implementation of the health reforms and the establishment of Health New Zealand and the Maaori Health Authority. The change will help ensure we deliver a more responsive and equitable health system that every New Zealander has access to regardless of where they live in Aotearoa.
It is encouraging for Aucklanders that over the last two years the regions District Health Boards have united against COVID-19 and have realised some regional efficiencies as a result of collaboration during this pandemic.
We have been working more closely across the Northern region and we’ve come together on many aspects of the pandemic response including the vaccination roll out and managing patient flow across the hospitals. The collaboration benefits realised over the last two years will strengthen as the implementation of the health reforms commence.
In closing please continue to ensure you and your whaanau are protected by getting fully vaccinated, and have your booster shot if you are eligible. We do know Omicron will spread quickly and many people will be able to self-manage at home and are preparing to do so.
Manaaki to hauora. Keep safe and well.
Dr Pete Watson, Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Medical Officer
Counties Manukau Health