Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has confirmed DHBs are preparing to scale down elective surgeries in order to make room for potential Covid-19 patients, Marc Daalder reports

In advance of any potential surge in Covid-19 patients requiring hospitalisation, District Health Boards have begun delaying elective surgeries to train staff, the Ministry of Health says.

“Some elective surgery is being postponed so we can train the staff to operate the theatres and the post-op area in this process of looking after patients who are being ventilated,” Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told reporters on Thursday.

Bloomfield also laid out how the health system could scale back elective surgeries in the face of a Covid-19 outbreak.

“We can scale back elective surgery quite quickly because a lot of elective surgery now is day-of-surgery admission and also day’s-stay surgery or people have very short lengths of stay,” he said. “Specialties or surgeries that require longer periods in hospital, those are the ones that we would move to switch off first.”

Bloomfield said the Ministry would be looking “in the next two days” at which surgeries would be first to be delayed.

Newsroom reported on Monday the country doesn’t have the intensive care capacity to deal with a severe Covid-19 outbreak. On Wednesday, Stuff reported the Government didn’t appear to know how many ventilators were in the country – a crucial tool needed to keep some people hospitalised by Covid-19 alive.

Overwhelmed health systems are often a key reason for high Covid-19 fatality rates in countries dealing with outbreaks.

Read more of Newsroom’s Covid-19 coverage here. 

Covid-19 is transmitted like the flu. The Ministry of Health recommends that all New Zealanders wash their hands frequently and refrain from touching their face in order to protect themselves and others. Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms and have been to any countries or territories of concern or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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