Shortage of supplies hampering support of isolating Covid-19 cases in Taranaki

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An iwi healthcare provider in Taranaki says difficulty getting supplies is hampering support of people isolating with Omicron.

Ngati Ruanui kaiwhakahaere Rachel Rae

Ngati Ruanui kaiwhakahaere Rachel Rae. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Taranaki has been averaging more than 600 new Covid-19 cases a day and there are about 4500 active cases in the community – 10 percent of which need support to isolate safely.

Hāwera-based Ngāti Ruanui has about 10,000 patients on the books of its healthcare service.

Kaiwhakahaere Rachel Rae said its practice alone had 400 cases requiring clinical help and 600 on its manaaki or general care list.

She said Ngāti Ruanui was having trouble finding the resources it needed.

“Getting bulk items has been a challenge even if it’s down to the oxymeters also the temperature things for our babies, our pēpi,” Rae said.

“Stuff that whānau actually need to self-manage, so it’s easier for our clinical team to assess whether or not they even have to go into hospital or need paracetamol – those sorts of things.”

Its five clinicians were being kept busy writing scripts and offering medical advice, while the manaaki team made three runs daily, dropping off scripts and rapid antigen tests and asking about other needs such as kai, Rae said.

It was a struggle to keep up and rae worried about the isolating kaumātua.

“It’s seven days a week, but we’re trying very very hard and we do have some very good volunteers that have stepped in to help us out as well.

“But it is seven days a week. We’re coping at the moment.

“I’m definitely more concerned about our pāhake [older people] and our pāhake who are suffering at the moment and have got Covid. It’s a scary time.”

Taranaki District Health Board Covid-19 response manager Gillian Campbell could relate to what Omicron patients were going through.

She had the virus and was isolating at home with family.

Campbell said the biggest challenge to providing care for the DHB is the number of staff affected.

“We’re sitting at any one time at the moment sort of around 4 percent who have got Covid and then we’ve got another similar percentage that are household contacts.

“And obviously we’re a critical workforce, so we’ve got a number of staff doing RATs daily in order to be able to continue to work.”

The DHB, GPs, pharmacies, primary health organisations, iwi, councils and civil defence were all involved in making the community care model work, Campbell said.

But there had been a cost.

“We’ve really reduced down to urgent and time critical services which is never something that we do lightly, but in order to have the workforce we’ve had to reduce some of the services we would normally be delivering.

“So, some of our surgery, some of our outpatient more planned follow ups and follow up care has been delayed.”

New Plymouth District councillor Dinnie Moeahu also had experienced Omicron.

Dinnie Moeahu

Dinnie Moeahu. Photo: Supplied

His family was hit with the virus – a particular concern because they cared for his immunocompromised sister in-law.

Moeahu was overwhelmed with the help they received.

“There were different organisations that reached out to us from the Taranaki District Health Board to other Maori health organisations and they wrapped a whole lot of support [around us] so our local doctors even did a lot of follow up work with us.”

However, it was not all plain sailing.

“The first 72 hours was pretty intense for Melissa. My wife worked pretty much around the clock for the first three days to monitor Melissa and then eventually we ended up calling the helpline a couple of times and we had a couple of medical experts on the line to help guide us through supporting Melissa.”

His sister-in-law was recovering along with the rest of the family.

Moeahu said his experience reinforced the importance of registering with the Ministry of Health if you test positive and getting support.

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