Hospital services

Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Hawke’s Bay Hospital services reduced as outbreak grows

The seven-day rolling average of community cases is 17,921. Video/NZ Herald

By Tom Kitchin of RNZ

Hawke’s Bay Hospital has had to reduce some of its services and operations, as the number of Covid patients in the hospital increases.

The hospital has been stressed and under pressure over the past year, struggling with the safety of staff and patients in its emergency department and trying to get patients out of the hospital at the right time.

Hospital admissions for Covid-19 in the region have increased over the past week.

On March 1, the hospital’s first case in the current outbreak was admitted.

Today, eight people with the virus are in hospital.

Yesterday, the hospital set up a dedicated Covid-19 ward to manage the growing number of cases.

Reconfigurations of its gastroenterology building allowed 17 Covid-19 patients to remain on the ward, and intensive care units were available if needed.

The hospital would begin to undertake inpatient surveillance testing to find asymptomatic cases.

There was also another ward on standby for another 24 Covid patients if needed.

The birthing unit also had a dedicated suite for māmā infected with the virus.

Hawke’s Bay Hospital operations director Chris Ash said the new Covid-19 wards meant some endoscopy procedures and planned surgeries would have to be postponed.

Hawke's Bay Hospital Emergency Department in Hastings.  Photo / Tom Kitchin
Hawke’s Bay Hospital Emergency Department in Hastings. Photo / Tom Kitchin

Outpatient appointments would switch to virtual consultations if necessary, he said.

DHB chief executive Keriana Brooking told RNZ that Covid demand meant some services would have to be “cut back” at the hospital.

“We figured out what things we may have to do less of, what are the things we may have to do outside of the hospital, so in someone’s house, and we also looked at how we could be able to increase our ability to offload,” she said.

“We will need to communicate with our community, and sometimes quite quickly, if we find ourselves in the position where we need to continue to provide a service, but in doing so we may need to manage the services we have.”

Hospital stays were about half of Delta’s, although DHB expects more people to arrive who needed to be managed longer, Brooking told Morning Report.

The hospital had admitted a number of children with the coronavirus, she said.

Brooking maintained that acute and emergency care would still be available.

She said staff had been asked to raise their hands to redeploy to another role if needed.

Demand in the emergency department had been “reasonably heavy” over the past two months, but not as busy as the busiest in May last year.

The department can cope with around 120 people per day.

But in May last year they reached 185 in one day, 65 more than normal capacity.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve been completely silent — but the 180 presentations a day we’ve had in the past — we haven’t seen that many,” Brooking said.

As of Monday, there were nearly 3,000 active cases of Covid-19 in Hawke’s Bay.

The region had only about 40 during the 2020 outbreak.