Middlemore Hospital has been the epicentre of the COVID-19 Delta outbreak with over 1,100 cases since the pandemic began in the Counties Manukau region. The teams experience is now being applied to how services and patient care will be provided in the future.
“We can’t predict the future but we can, and have, considered the impact on our community when COVID infections become an everyday part of our daily work” says Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Medical Officer Dr Pete Watson.
“Even with the progress to date on vaccinations the predicted numbers are sobering, and we are planning on having perhaps 1,000 COVID cases per week in our community that could mean up to 30 or more hospital admissions at Middlemore with COVID related illnesses.
Planning for living with COVID-19 is being carefully managed at Middlemore. The focus is to ensure the entire system is well prepared, and this planning involves more than just a count of beds available in the Intensive Care Unit for the acutely unwell.
COVID patients require isolation, good ventilation, negative pressure and high levels of skilled nursing and other clinical care.
Long term planning at Middlemore includes capacity preparedness such as beds available, workforce planning, infrastructure, hospital pathways for patient entry and transfers, infection prevention and controls such as PPE, mask wearing, visitor policy and contract tracing. Service level planning such as cancer screening and testing for COVID prior to high risk aerosol procedures, birthing plans for patients with COVID, and the expansion of Telehealth for outpatient care are examples of how the services Counties Manukau Health delivers will be impacted as we learn to live with COVID.
“We need to be able to care for all patients in a safe way and living with COVID is about being able to scale up when we need to.
“We’re taking a whole of system based approach to ensure everyone in our diverse community continues to be able to access and receive the health services they need.
“The Delta variant is a game changer and our ability to surge our hospital capacity to manage when numbers of cases increases is critical. We are doing all we can to ensure we can safely treat patients who become infected with COVID. We are very pleased that well over 90% of our staff are now fully vaccinated and many of our patients and visitors are as well. This protection is essential and what we are experiencing is that hospitalisation for COVID illness is almost exclusively among the unvaccinated.
The road out of us having to provide hospital care for COVID related illnesses is for our community to get vaccinated” says Pete.