Southern DHB to run South Island health response to quake

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Southern District Health Board has taken over all South Island emergency health coordination following yesterday’s deadly earthquake in Christchurch.

Dunedin Hospital has become the base emergency operations centre while Christchurch Hospital concentrates on “life-saving activities”, SDHB incident controller for the Canterbury earthquake response Leanne Samuel says.

SDHB will also coordinate the rest of Canterbury District Health Board’s activities, including business-as-usual operations.

“We are on standby to support in any way we can across the South Island,” she told a media telephone conference this morning.

Dunedin Hospital will start to receive surgical patients from Christchurch today and will transfer some to Invercargill if necessary – Samuel estimates there’ll be at least 50 beds made available.

All elective surgery at both hospitals has been postponed till further notice but acute patients will be treated as normal. It’s also business as usual for SDHB outpatient activity and rural hospitals.

Samuel doesn’t know the number of patients expected to hit Dunedin – but “we are expecting it to be many”.

“[We’ll receive] patients who have had trauma, renal dialysis patients, potentially aged care patients, and potentially we’ll be moving some neo-natals as well.

“At this time we have adequate staff to be essentially prepared for whatever patients we receive. The challenge will be for us on-going and keeping rosters covered, and all of those things.”

SDHB is also sending Public Health staff – including water quality experts – “as soon as possible” to Christchurch to help with health protection.