Doctors in holiday hot spots are issuing a plea for visitors to prepare for the possibility they could get Covid-19 while away, as general practices and pharmacies are already “under the pump”.
Any day now, holidaymakers will start flocking en masse to some of the country’s gems, including Northland, Coromandel, Gisborne, Nelson and Bay of Plenty for the Christmas and New Year period.
These are all also areas that have smaller, and already “stretched”, healthcare infrastructure.
Dr Mike Loten, who owns the only medical practice in the west coast surf town of Raglan, has a big message for people: “Don’t come on holiday if you’re sick, wait until you’re well.”
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Loten is bringing on additional locum staff to help manage the extra workload that comes with the “summer influx”, and, with Covid-19 cases high, is anticipating needing to support visitors to Raglan with the virus.
They love visitors, but to be able to provide for them and ensure they have a good experience, there need to be people to keep the shops open, and working in medical centres, he said.
“We’re very stretched – not just health services – and need to be able to keep [things] open.”
Ben Van Den Borst, pharmacist at My Pharmacy Papamoa Plaza, said they’re already seeing visitors, as a local medical clinic had to close early this week after too many staff tested positive for Covid-19.
“That sort of stuff is happening … [and] local providers are already under the pump as it is.”
It’s up to all of us to protect each other, so places can stay open, and ensure health facilities can “look after everyone” during this time of “high demand”, he said.
Here’s how you can help ease some of that pressure if you’re headed to a holiday hot spot:
Before you go
- Make a plan for if you test positive for Covid-19 and need to isolate or change your holiday plans at short notice. Can you stay where you are? How would you get home?
- Find out where you can access health services when you’re away.
Test if you feel sick
Te Whatu Ora interim national medical director Dr Pete Watson said if you test positive and you’re well enough to drive back home you can, but only if you travel via a private or work vehicle with only your immediate family or household members.
“If that isn’t possible for whatever reason, you need to be able to isolate where you are or find somewhere else to isolate.”
Watson said a key thing people can do is save the following free-call numbers into their phone:
- Healthline (for Covid-19 health advice) – 0800 358 5453;
- Healthline (for general health and information) – 0800 611 116;
- There’s also a dedicated Covid disability helpline: 0800 11 12 13.
What to pack
- Make sure you’ve got rapid antigen tests and masks – officials recommend five RATs per person.
- If you take regular medication, ensure you’ve got enough to cover at least an extra week if you test positive and have to isolate – including inhalers or other essential equipment. Van Den Borst said sourcing a prescription over the holidays can be “really tricky” – being prepared is much easier.
You can still get free RATs from a range of locations. Search here for the closest place to get a test, or request free RATs here requestrats.covid19.health.nz.
If you test positive
Report your result through My Covid Record, or by calling 0800 222 478.
Loten said this is key, as your medical centre will be notified you have Covid-19 and can support you.
If you have Covid-19 you need to self-isolate for seven days. Under current Ministry of Health guidance, household contacts do not need to isolate, but should test daily for five days. If they test positive, they need to begin seven days of isolation.
Eligible people can receive antiviral medicines for free.
Many pharmacies provide antivirals without a prescription, or your usual healthcare provider can write you a prescription for a pharmacy to fill – Van Den Borst advises people phone Healthline or their usual health provider if they’re unsure.
For information on where to get antivirals with and without a prescription, and opening hours over the Christmas period, visit the Healthpoint website here.
Don’t just rock up to a pharmacy if you’ve tested positive.
A panel of experts answer reader questions on Covid-19 and what people can expect over the summer holidays.
Prepare for long waits at hospitals
The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine has warned EDs and health services are under “extreme pressure”, and people seeking care for non-immediately life-threatening conditions will “likely experience long waits”.
The college was particularly concerned about capacity and staffing levels of smaller EDs in rural, regional, and remote areas.
People should enjoy this time, but also take steps to keep yourself safe and out of hospital: drinking alcohol in moderation, avoiding drugs, driving carefully and patiently, being sun-smart, and water-safe – keeping a “very close eye” on children, it said.