A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

Covid tests no longer a must for common cold symptoms

People with coughs and colds will no longer be automatically tested for Covid-19.

Ministry of Health staff have revealed new testing guidelines geared to focussing on higher risk patients.

The move comes in the wake of a spike in the number of people being tested in Marlborough as cold and flu season starts to strike.

Previous guidelines saw anybody with a runny nose, among other symptoms, automatically tested for the virus.

Other people with cold or flu symptoms can still be tested but it will not be a requirement.

The move is expected to put an end to the huge demand for tests in some areas over the past week as cold and flu season hit.

New guidelines mean efforts will now be focused on those who fall into high risk categories including, overseas travellers, direct contact or those working at an airport or isolation facility.

There are no new cases in Nelson Marlborough but community surveillance continues.

Tests are still be carried out at Urgent Care and on some emergency department patients at Wairau Hospital.

“Testing in the community will continue, and as part of our broader surveillance anyone with respiratory symptoms should contact Healthline or their general practice to get advice around getting a test,” a spokesperson says.

“The updated approach continues to rely on clinical judgement which has been an essential part of the testing approach since the outset and ensures that people who might be at higher risk are tested and managed appropriately.

“This is reflected in our high testing rates in the community, including 10,436 tests yesterday.”

Higher risk categories

* Had contact with an infected person

* Been overseas

* Had direct contact with someone who had been overseas

* Worked on an international aircraft of ship

* Worked at an airport or isolation facility

Anyone with respiratory symptoms should contact Healthline free on 0800 611 116 or their general practice to get advice around getting a test.

Health board move to prevent measles outbreak

Hundreds of young people at risk of a potentially deadly disease are being given a second chance to protect themselves.

Nelson Marlborough District Health is set to launch a $200,000 Measles Catch Up campaign in a bid to cut the number of people not immunised.

And health bosses hope the move will reduce the risk of a community outbreak.

In the wake of a national outbreak last year, the government announced a $23 million bid to vaccinate those aged between 15 and 29 years old across New Zealand.

General manager strategy, primary and community, Nelson Marlborough Health Cathy O’Malley says the focus is on those who may have missed out.

Cathy O’Malley wants to see people who have missed out on their MMR to be vaccinated. Photo: Supplied.
Cathy O’Malley wants to see people who have missed out on their MMR to be vaccinated. Photo: Supplied.

“Ministry is now focusing on the immunity gap in adolescents and young adults aged between 15-and 30-years old, a cohort born before the National Immunisation Register (NIR) was established.

“This gap primarily affects Māori and Pasifika peoples in this age group who we want to reach by removing barriers to accessing immunisation and raising awareness,” she says.

The cost of the campaign includes two part-time fixed-term positions, advertising, public health nursing (school outreach), community immunisation clinics and outreach to Maori and Pasifika people in that age group.

General Practitioners will start contacting patients in the middle of next month as the campaign gets underway.

The move will help reduce the risk of future measles outbreaks, Cathy says.

Ministry of Health figures for the year up to 31 March 2020 show the number of eligible children who have had all their age appropriate immunisations is at 79.9 per cent across Nelson and Marlborough.

In Nelson Marlborough there were 1485 eligible babies, of which 1186 were vaccinated.

“MMR is the best protection against these serious diseases – measles, mumps and rubella.

“We can’t yet immunise against COVID-19, but we can protect against other serious diseases,” Cathy says.

Staff will try to determine whether a person is unvaccinated and eligible for other vaccines and administering them at the same time, with the person’s consent.

But anyone who is eligible need not wait, she says.

“We encourage any young person in this age group to get their free immunisation at any time – they don’t have to wait for the campaign to start.

“You can get immunised for free by your family doctor (GP), at an after-hours medical centre or at a participating pharmacy.

“Nationally as well as locally we need to encourage this group to get vaccinated in order to reduce the risk of future measles outbreaks.”

Working from home could become the new norm for many staff. File photo.

Heath bosses weigh up work from home advantage

Hundreds of health staff could work from home as bosses look at boosting productivity levels after lockdown

Members of Nelson Marlborough Health Board are looking at ways people could work from home on a permanent basis.

During lockdown productivity levels increased, with feedback from staff saying they enjoyed a better work life balance.

Speaking at the latest board meeting in May via Zoom, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board Chief Executive Peter Bramley says working from home had many positives.

“By not commuting daily it saves congestion, money, time and the environment.

“It also minimises the circulation and exposure to various infectious diseases, potentially reducing the need to take time off sick.

“Staff have reported better work life balance, and many would like the consideration of a flexible model between work and home going forward.”

The move would only apply to staff not needed for face to face work.

Peter says the challenges brought about by COVID-19 saw many services make the switch to online.

Now is the ideal time to see what changes might work well in the long term, he says.

“There is huge support to keep doing the right thing by our community and not to slip back to the old inefficient ways.”

Figures from Nelson Marlborough Health IT team show prior to COVID19 about 330 staff would remotely connect during a two-week period.

But between 25 March and 8 April that number more than trebled to 1080 staff.

People and Capabilities general manager Trish Casey says encouraging flexible working arrangements is on the cards.

“NMH is interested in continuing to promote flexible working arrangements for staff, especially as we continue to incorporate greater physical distancing into our ways of working for the future.

“We are currently reviewing many aspects of how we work, like when we travel to meetings or conferences versus connecting via technology, as we anticipate a need to maintain a cautious position with regards to bringing people together in groups,” she says.

“If an employee wants to continue remote working and this can be done effectively, managers will be looking to facilitate this.”

Nate Dyer, left, with Mike Newman from Meaters. Photo: Supplied.

Brave mum defies odds after horror smash

Seconds before the car struck, Jamie Miller, 29, closed her eyes and braced for the worst.

The Blenheim mum broke her pelvis, fractured her back and ribs and damaged both her windpipe and liver.

Now she has defied the odds, walking less than two weeks after a horror smash that could have killed her and her children.

The brave mum is already back on her feet, using a walker, and is back home with her family after being discharged from Wairau Hospital on Friday.

“I remember pulling out and seeing the car coming towards me and knew it was going to happen.

“We’re just lucky it turned out the way it did. It could have been much, much worse,” she says.

And the family want to pass on their thanks to the community for all their support, especially Mike Newman from Meaters of Marlborough who donated $250 of meat and $100 cash.

Jamie spent an hour trapped in the wreckage of their family car while emergency crews battled to free her. She was then flown to Nelson Hospital by helicopter.

“The hospital staff have all been amazing,” Jamie says. “Both our families have been really supportive too.”

Jamie was knocked unconscious by the impact of the crash which happened on 21 May at the the intersection of SH1 and Roadhouse Drive, in Riverlands.

She suffered severe lacerations to her head and has two black eyes.

She had just dropped her partner, Nate Dyer, off at Vent Mechanical Repairs where he works, minutes before the crash, she says.

“It was like I was dreaming, like a nightmare really. I remember asking about my children but don’t remember being in the helicopter or seeing Nate there,” she says.

“I was very, very lucky to be honest, as was the driver of the other car.

“Nate heard the sirens but didn’t think much of it until a truck driver told him it was me and the children and he just rushed to the scene.”

Their youngest child, who turns 2-years-old in July, broke her collarbone, and fractured her arm. The 3-year-old broke his femur and the 7-year-old suffered a hit to his head and two black eyes.

Jamie believes the child car seats saved their lives.

“The two youngest were in their car seats and the oldest was sitting in between them wearing a seatbelt.

“That’s what saved him, his siblings’ car seats, they saved his life.

“I blamed myself at first, but it was a freak accident, nobody’s fault

“It makes you think a lot about life and what matters.”

A Give a Little page has been set up to help with costs while the family recover.

To make a donation visit https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/nathans-story

General manager Mental Health, Addictions and Disability Support Services Jane Kinsey. Photo: Supplied.

Help for addicts as wait times slashed

Supporting drug and alcohol addicts to detox at home is slashing wait times for people desperate for help.

Marlborough patients were waiting almost two months as staff shortages slowed access to addiction services.

But a new detox nurse employed across the district is providing planned treatment faster than ever before.

Nelson Marlborough Health Addictions Service in Blenheim was struggling to keep up with demand, with 32 people waiting six weeks plus for help in April.

General manager Mental Health, Addictions and Disability Support Services Jane Kinsey says the new appointment is already having a positive effect.

“Treatment can be provided more quickly because, with a detox nurse’s support, it can be provided in a person’s home and doesn’t rely on the availability of hospital beds, or beds in a residential service in another part of NZ,” she says.

The regional service has facilities in Blenheim, Nelson and Golden Bay and, among other tasks, helps with community detox, screening and intervention for patients admitted to Wairau Hospital.

Staff can also refer people for in patient care and assist with an opioid substitution treatment plan.

The wait list in Blenheim is currently longer than Nelson primarily due to staffing vacancies.

“We have been providing phone support from Nelson for people on the Wairau waitlist and we have recently recruited to a position in Wairau,”

“This is making a difference and we are starting to see a reduction in the waitlist time,” Jane says.

There are currently 13 people on the waitlist in Blenheim and can usually be seen within two weeks, on average.

Jane says finding staff for Marlborough vacancies can be difficult.

There is a current vacancy for one full-time nurse and a part time service coordinator.

“We still have vacancies in the team and while it can be challenging to recruit qualified staff like this to the Marlborough region, we are confident we will find the right people,” Jane says.

Addictions service clients may also have appointments and treatment plans with staff in other services.

There are 16.4 (full time equivalent) staff employed by the service in Nelson, which also covers Motueka and Golden Bay and 11.8 (full time equivalent) in Marlborough.

Tamara Gillan. Photo: Supplied.

Covid patient pays tribute to healthcare team

Struggling to breathe as the virus attacked her lungs, Tamara Gillan tried not to panic.

Having arrived in Blenheim three days before lockdown she had fled the UK to be with her family in what she hoped would be a safer environment.

But in a cruel twist of fate, she became one of 49 people across Nelson Marlborough District Health board to be diagnosed with COVID-19.

Now mainly recovered, the grateful business owner is paying tribute to the team of healthcare workers who cared for her and her mother – well known Marlburian Toni Gillan, who medics believe also had the virus.

“They were amazing. We were called every day and they went through our symptoms with us.

“It was quite psychologically draining and to hear their friendly voices was very reassuring,” Tamara says.

When her symptoms worsened and she laboured to breath, the knowledge that help was just a call away was calming, she says.

“I was so breathless; like someone was standing on my chest.

“I knew that if I needed to, I could go to the hospital. That was calming as in London there might not be ventilators or beds, but I knew here I would get really amazing care.”

Founder and chief at marketing agency Cherry London and of the WealthiHer network, entrepreneur Tamara opted to come to New Zealand to be with her parents.

She thought the air quality would be better in Marlborough and safer for her 5-year-old son who suffers from lung issues after he was born prematurely.

They arrived in Blenheim two weeks after Toni had visited them in London in early March.

But on Toni’s return to New Zealand, she got a call from the Ministry of Health’s tracing team.

A patient sitting in front of her on the flight back had tested positive for COVID-19.  While her test was negative, Toni’s case was treated as probable, especially when Tamara fell ill too.

“I’m not a good patient but I knew I had to treat it with the respect it deserves. It was like I was at the bottom of the ocean and couldn’t breathe.

“The Public Health team here have just been spectacular,” she says.

“This is just heart breaking for the whole world and I feel hugely privileged to be here as people are just not getting the same level of testing in the UK.

“They also checked with a paediatrician about my son and consulted an immunologist as well as finding things to help keep him amused.

“I’m so grateful.”

Tamara wants to especially acknowledge and thank Nelson Marlborough Health clinical director Stephen Bridgman, public health nurse Karen Aitken, medical officer of health Andrew Lindsay and health protection officer Evan McKenzie.

A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

Majority of Marlborough Covid cases recovered

Most people who caught Covid-19 in Marlborough have now recovered.

Latest figures from Nelson Marlborough District Health Board show that as of today, 43 people across both regions have recovered from the virus.

For the eleventh day in a row, there have been no new or suspected cases of the illness.

The total number of new and probable cases in New Zealand today is nine taking the tally to 1440.

The Ministry of Health defines a recovered case as someone who has been symptom free for at least 10 days since they first started showing signs of infection.

Over the weekend 54 people were triaged at a Community Based Assessment Centre in Blenheim and swabs were taken from 49 people.

The Government is expected to announce a decision over whether New Zealand drops to Alert Level 3 at 4pm today.

A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

No new Covid-19 cases in Marlborough for seven days

Marlborough is now marking a week without any new or probable cases of Covid-19.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed there are just 15 new cases of the virus confirmed nationwide today.

A Nelson Marlborough Health spokesperson says there have been no new or probable cases in Nelson or Marlborough.

Twenty people visited a Community Based Assessment Centre yesterday and 19 swaps were taken.

Today, the total number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the Nelson Marlborough region is 30.

Ashwood Park introduced measures to help safeguard their residents prior to lockdown. Photo: File

Urgent checks on rest home infection controls ordered

Rest home bosses are carrying out urgent infection control checks in a bid to keep Covid-19 from some of the region’s most vulnerable.

Nelson Marlborough Health staff are getting aged care facilities across the region to complete a checklist to gauge the risk of contamination.

And site visits will be carried out to see what further support is needed.

Six of the nine deaths nationwide from Covid-19 have been at a Christchurch rest home.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield launched a review of rest home facilities with confirmed Covid-19 cases on Tuesday.

General manager Strategy, Primary and Community, Nelson Marlborough Health Cathy O’Malley says she is aware of the effort staff are putting in to keeping people safe.

“Nelson Marlborough Health acknowledges the effort and expertise of aged residential care providers to keep their residents and staff safe during this pandemic,” she says.

While there have been no new Covid-19 cases for a week in Marlborough, it is essential care home providers stay vigilant, Cathy says.

Rest home managers and staff are carrying out self-assessment on infection prevention policies and practices.

The results will be carefully scrutinised and online meetings held with care providers to discuss results.

“We want to support providers to stay on top of this,” Cathy says.

“The next step will be to visit any providers as required, to assess their site and see what further support they may need.”

A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

Marlborough marks six days with no more Covid-19 cases

Marlborough is now marking six days without any new cases of Covid-19.

There are 20 new and probable cases of Covid-19 across New Zealand, taking the total to 1386.

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield this afternoon revealed 728 reported cases that have recovered.

The number of cases in Marlborough and Nelson is at 48, with all patients recovering in isolation at home.

As at 15 April 2020, the total number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the Nelson Marlborough region is 29.