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DHB plans for Covid outbreak

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board say they have an escalation plan in place to increase Intensive Care capacity in case of a Covid-19 outbreak in the community.

However, they also confirm Covid-19 workforce training is still ongoing amid a nationwide staffing issue among ICU facilities.

Recent cases of Covid-19 in Auckland and Waikato have raised fears over the Bay of Plenty’s potential exposure to the Delta variant.

Tauranga has seemingly dodged three bullets in recent months - the Rio de la Plata shipping container cases, the infected Auckland truck driver who visited Mount Maunganui and Tauriko, and the recent positive wastewater tests, all of which underscore the delicate nature of the region’s vulnerability.

With vaccination rates in the Bay of Plenty currently below the national average per 1000 for both first and second doses, and among the worst in the nation for Māori uptake, the potential impact of a Covid-19 outbreak in the region is clear.

The Bay of Plenty’s two main hospital centres - Tauranga and Whakatāne - have Intensive Care Units run as combined critical care units. Tauranga ICU has six ICU beds and four High Dependency Unit beds. Whakatāne Acute Care unit has two beds available for Intensive Care patients.

The BOPDHB serves a population of approximately 255,110, according to their 2020 Annual Report. That figure is split between 199,571 served by Tauranga Hospital and 55,359 by Whakatāne Hospital.

Those figures equate to roughly one ICU or HDU bed per 20,000 people in Tauranga and one ICU bed per every 28,000 in Whakatāne.

“The BOPDHB has ICU capacity contingency plans for mass casualty presentations and a potential pandemic outbreak in the region,” says BOPDHB chief operating officer Bronwyn Anstis.

“This includes increasing the number of ICU beds and utilising post-anaesthetic care unit beds, along with additional training of staff in progress.

“The ICU has an escalation plan to increase capacity of ICU beds that is integrated with the CCU/HDU and the Perioperative Department.”

When asked whether the DHB is confident staffing issues are adequate to deal with a Delta outbreak in the Bay of Plenty, Bronwyn pointed to nationwide ICU staffing issues.

“A lot of DHBs across New Zealand are currently experiencing some staffing issues in this area,” she says.

As a result, the BOPDHB have been provided with Ministry of Health funding for 1.5 full-time equivalent staffing to facilitate Covid-19 workforce training. This process is currently underway.

“This resource is focused on developing a range of skills for managing patients with Covid-19 across the hospital setting.”

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