On Tuesday, 18 February the College hosted a second Coronavirus update webinar for members. More than 300 GPs tuned in to hear first-hand advice from the Ministry of Health’s Director General Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Chief Clinical Advisor Dr Juliet Rumball-Smith.
The pair fielded questions from GPs, many in relation to the availability and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Ashley confirmed DHBs are well stocked and he has instructed them to ensure PHOs and general practices have appropriate supplies.
Juliet reminded attendees that although New Zealand still hasn’t had any suspected cases of the Convid-19 virus, we need to be prepared, and that the case definition for health professionals hasn’t changed since the last webinar.
She explained that sector feedback is important and is being used to inform and adjust the Ministry’s response. For example, the Healthline team are doing phone triage based on the case definition criteria. Juliet also confirmed that Healthline will not send patients who are suspected cases of COVID-19 to a general practice without first contacting that patient’s GP.
Of interest, Healthline runs a translation service and has employed additional staff whose first language is Mandarin to ensure good communication with Chinese callers. Healthline staff are proactively following up with people who are in self-isolation to check they are meeting the recommended requirements.
Dr Bloomfield mentioned the cross-government support that is being offered to these people - in particular those who have housing challenges. He mentioned there is a high level of trust involved, but said this was commensurate with the high trust society in which we live.
Juliet also explained the way the Ministry is making decisions relating to the use of PPE. She confirmed there is a technical advisory group (which includes a GP representative, infectious disease experts and virologists) which is constantly checking evidence, overseas responses and our local context before making recommendations to the Ministry about PPE. At this stage the PPE requirements have not changed, although the taskforce meets regularly.
GPs are being encouraged to keep checking the Ministry’s Convid-19 webpages. Amongst other things, this is where you’ll find quick reference guides for reception staff, a primary care triage checklist.