By MATTHEW MCKEW
Hotels in Queenstown may be needed for makeshift hospital wards should an outbreak of Covid-19 become widespread, a doctor’s warning.
Dr Sam Hazledine, of locally-based recruitment agency MedWorld, is working with the Ministry of Health to pull retired doctors and nurses back into the healthcare system.
Nationally, more than 1000 people have answered the call to arms and will bolster frontline care or provide support in telemedicine and tracing Covid-19 cases.
MedWorld’s also working with the ministry on a taskforce to prepare hotels to deal with a surge in patients.
Former health staff who are no longer registered with regulators could be used as carers in these hotels, Hazledine suggests.
“Queenstown is an interesting situation.
“We know there have been cases here and at [the World Hereford] conference.
“There might be a lot more cases than we think.
He’s concerned about capacity should there be a large outbreak, because patients will have to be treated in Southland or Dunedin hospitals because of a shortage of ventilators at Frankton’s Lakes District Hospital.
Hazledine’s also asking for mental health and domestic violence services to ramp up their efforts in case things “blow up”.
“Look at the amount of people that will be out of work and not able to pay their mortgage.
“Domestic violence is a real concern.
“The social ramifications will be huge.
“We’ve never seen anything like this.
“We have to prepare and adapt for the worst.”
Queenstown’s got a skeleton mental health service and Hazledine says there must be innovative solutions to the shortfall in staff.
He’s in the midst of organising a jet to China to bring back to NZ much-needed personal protective equipment for healthcare staff.
But, he says, the most “decisive action” to avoid a crisis like that unfolding in Italy is to heed government advice to stay indoors.
“My biggest fear is people not taking this seriously and thinking it’s just a common cold.”