Turangi – leading the way in planning services for COVID-19
12/04/2020 8:38:34 a.m.

Sunday 12 April 2020


Turangi – leading the way in planning services for COVID-19


Turangi health services have grabbed the bull by the horns with systems to protect vulnerable community members set in place before lockdown.

Turangi Pharmacy has teamed up with Southern Lake Health Shuttle (formerly Turangi Transport Group) to deliver prescriptions to its vulnerable patients, while Pihanga Health set up a swabbing clinic and changed its practice around.

The pharmacy swung into action when the Level 4 lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday, March 23. By Wednesday it had started a trial.

It is now delivering up to 15 prescriptions a day to patients who are identified as vulnerable due to age or medical condition.

Retail assistant Gill Wotherspoon says they have received a lot of positive feedback from customers who are grateful to have one less thing to organise.

“You can see the relief. Some people coming in have been adult children of elderly patients coming in on their behalf. This cuts down a lot of risk.

“We’ve had some customers cry, they’re so grateful they don’t have to come in.”

Southern Lake Health Shuttle usually transports passengers from Turangi to out of town health appointments. The drivers go to each patient’s address and ensure the prescription is going to the correct patient while maintaining a safe distance.

There is a paper trail to track which driver has been where and when.

Pihanga Health practice manager Hilary MorrishAllen has a background in crisis planning so didn’t wait long to get the practice ready for a pandemic response.

“I’m a natural born planner. I could see what was happening overseas. It’s like a train coming towards you. You don’t know how fast it’s going or how long it is, but you know it’s going to arrive.”

Before taking on the practice manager role Hilary had worked as territorial manager for St John based at the Rotorua station. She and her husband wrote the first CIMS manual, which is used by emergency management organisations nationwide, so writing plans for Pihanga Health was the obvious thing to do.

“I started off by thinking how would we cope and what would we need to do. I realised one plan would never be the solution, we needed lots of plans.”

As each stage of the alert system was implemented Pihanga Health has moved to a new plan. This has included getting technology in place to allow staff to work from home, for consults to be carried out over the phone and by video and to also ensure patient safety isn’t compromised.

Under Level 4 the practice has a swabbing clinic in a separate building and has been able to separate the clinic so vulnerable patients, such as those with chronic conditions, are not mixing with people who are unwell.

“While we are doing a lot of consults over the phone we are also doing more follow-up with these patients. We’re conscious about managing our vulnerable patients and long term patients. We have a special team of staff who only work with these patients.

‘We’re also focussed on keeping as many services going as we can. It’s important the community has confidence in the fact we are not neglecting them.

“The risk is we take our eye off the ball and we don’t want to create problems elsewhere.”

The social side of work is also part of the plan, with bake-offs, and birthday celebrations now being an online experience.

ends