Vaccination Restrictions 28.10.21

18:51 28 October in Family Practice News

Cromwell Family Practice Patient Update

                The College of General Practitioners, led by Dr Bryan Betty and Dr Murton (often seen on TV) have provided strong guidance throughout the pandemic for GP clinics. They are in constant contact with the Ministry of Health and other agencies, and last week issued the attached advice which we will be following.

Unvaccinated patient restrictions as of today at our clinic.

  1. Those who are not fully vaccinated will be triaged and assessed by phone or video chat first, and/or seen in the carpark (as in level 4). This may include children but we will use discretion. If people need to come inside we will have to clear other patients and don PPE, then disinfect rooms, so we will try and streamline the flow of patients, you may not get to choose a convenient time to come in. Everyone will be assessed on a case by case basis, and we will attempt to provide best and most appropriate care possible. These restrictions are already in place in many clinics and expect most to operate such restrictions shortly around NZ. We expect people to express a full range of opinions and emotions, but we will not tolerate harassment of staff. Be patient and we will all get through. These arrangements are temporary. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated and help get rid of such annoying restrictions. We are happy to answer questions if people are worried. We are not prepared to listen to facebook experts and lectures, however.  
  2. Those who do not wear a mask in the waiting room will similarly be restricted. We currently have only one patient who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, so we will not provide exemption certificates for masking or vaccination. We realise they are uncomfortable, and most people can remove them once in a consultation. So maximum mask time will be less than 30 minutes, and possibly zero. Masks reduce infections by around 85%, they are to protect others, so wear them as a courtesy, for as long as you can.
  3. All symptomatic patients with infectious symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, will be seen, assessed, and offered testing in the carpark, as we do currently. This may include many symptoms you do not recognise as possible infections, so bear with us while we assess you.
  4. There are strict criteria for 3rd primary doses of the vaccine. We will recall most people manually, you do not need to do anything yet. Only those who have had recent chemotherapy, are on strong immunosuppressant drugs, or with blood disorders need #3. They are known to produce lower levels of antibodies. The third dose is 8 weeks after the second. Booster shots may not happen until next year for other risk groups, we have no discretion to offer “boosters”
  5. We will continue to offer Covid testing daily Mon-Fri. Phone ahead and phone early , we will be testing in the mornings from now on due to heat. If in doubt, get a test. Its free and painless.

Explanatory notes.

As of today, public health advice is that the Delta virus can be expected to be incubating throughout the country. South Island numbers are still low but are not zero. We can all expect to either get coronavirus in the coming year, unless you are vaccinated  (or move to Antarctica).  There have been several episodes of infection now in the South Island, Covid came to Cromwell during last year’s lockdown. This means we must all move into the next phase of the pandemic. There are currently over 500 people with Covid self-isolating at home in Auckland now, under remote care by Healthline and GP clinics. We are expecting this to happen at some stage in Cromwell. Clinics need to always remain open and functional, to support people at home with Covid, hence our caution. This will involve daily remote monitoring.

Practices have been at the frontline of the pandemic for over 18 months now and are well prepared to keep operating under difficult conditions. As well as normal health care, which is the priority, we must manage people with infectious symptoms, plus testing, plus vaccinations. We must screen all patients. Our focus throughout the pandemic has been to keep operating, and avoid staff infections, which will close us down for several weeks. We have many vulnerable patients who have cancer, are on chemotherapy, or are otherwise prone to medical complications, who deserve protection while in our care and in our building, so hence the caution.

Dunstan Hospital only has a couple of spare beds available at the best of times, so nobody can necessarily expect to receive hospital care for both Covid and non-Covid related problems. 10% of covid patients may need admitted to hospital. Protecting hospitals from being shut down or overloaded is the whole point of controlling the virus.

If you are not sure about getting vaccinated give us a call and we can answer any questions. There is no compulsory vaccination, but our situation will be echoed at premises all over the country from now on. This is not a Government mandate but simply the nature of the virus that dictates what we must do, until exponential growth fizzles out sometime next year due to adequate herd immunity. The same procedures would apply for other infectious outbreaks, from Ebola to measles.

We need not fear Covid and will “learn to live with it”, but this does not mean learning to die from it quietly while others carry on as normal.

Kind Regards from all the team at Cromwell Family Practice