1000 operations a week delayed as hospitals plan for Covid case surge

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Oct 2021, 7:17AM

1000 operations a week delayed as hospitals plan for Covid case surge

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Oct 2021, 7:17AM

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Up to 1000 operations a week are being cancelled or postponed to allow hospitals to plan for a surge in Covid admissions. 

Health Minister Andrew Little was asked today if he was confident the country's hospitals could cope with a Covid outbreak, given concerns aired by intensive care staff recently, and he said they "could absorb" any pressure. 

At the start of last year there were 243 ICU beds across the country and that had since grown to between 320 and 340 beds. 

Asked if he was comfortable with that level, Little said right now there were 767 active cases of Covid and 35 in hospital and three in ICU, so he was okay with that. 

There had been around 1000 operations being cancelled - or postponed - a week to allow for contingency plans in case an ICU bed was needed for a Covid patient. 

He said there were some procedures that did need an ICU bed as a back-up in case something went wrong. 

They had got into the backlog of last year's surgeries but now there was a new backlog, however he was hopeful the Ministry of Health would have a plan to tackle that. 

Little said keeping Kiwis safe was still the priority as the mental health of an increasing number of business owners continues to deteriorate. 

Little told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB today about what he could do for businesspeople who were now suffering fatigue and depression in Auckland's never-ending lockdown. 

He replied that he had heard that happening - and Small Business Minister Stuart Nash had mentioned it to him, too. 

Little said there needed to be psychosocial support in place for them. 

Asked whether lockdowns were out of whack given the deterioration in people's mental health , Little said he continually got told by people "don't put us at risk" by relaxing alert levels. 

Little also spoke about vulnerable population groups, including Māori, and whether the goal was to get their vaccination rate as close to 90 per cent as possible. 

He said they wanted to get them as high as possible but realised it was fraught. 

"I get the tension and it is difficult ... but we want to get as many people vaccinated as possible because they become the problem for all of us." 

On TVNZ's Breakfast, Little said vaccination rates had slowed down since Super Saturday, with roughly 40,000 vaccinations a day, but Maori rates were still going up. 

Little said the Government was working more closely with Māori health groups and providers to help get more Māori vaccinated. 

Little said Pasifika vaccination rates had also gone up markedly over the last few weeks. 

He said those particular communities were ones that were isolated and for many people living in those places, there had been no connection to the health system for much of their lives as a result. 

Little acknowledged that the "for Māori by Māori" move to get more of the community vaccinated was one way in ensuring more people would come forward to get the jab. 

"The Māori Health Authority will bring leadership and stewardship to it." 

Meanwhile, on the AM Show, Little said the 100 positive Covid cases currently isolating at home were all following the rules. 

He said they have been assessed as reasonably low risk, but were infected. They were required to isolate at home and have welfare checks.