Wednesday March 11, 2020
11 March 2020
Sir Michael Cullen steps down as BOPDHB Chair
By now most of you will be aware of the sad news that Sir Michael Cullen has had to announce his resignation as Chair of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and as a member of the Lakes District Health Board as of Sunday (8 March).
Sir Michael had taken on the roles wanting to make a difference in our health system in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts and said that ironically, it was totally unexpected news about his own health which led to his decision.
Sir Michael said: “What was initially a CT scan of my heart has resulted in a clear diagnosis of Stage IV small cell lung cancer with multiple secondaries in my liver. Chemotherapy is likely to extend my lifespan somewhat but it is clear to me I will not be in a fit state to carry on all that I have been doing in recent months.
“I have already stood down reluctantly from my long-held position as lead claims negotiator for Te Kotahitanga o Ngati Tuwharetoa. The only major role I will maintain in the meantime is as Chair of the Earthquake Commission (EQC) to see it through the release and the response to Dame Sylvia Cartwright’s report into EQC and the Christchurch Earthquake sequence. I expect to make a decision shortly about the timing of my departure from that position.”
Both District Health Boards express their sadness at this news, and wish Sir Michael, wife Anne and family their kind thoughts. Details in regard to the Chair’s replacement will be advised in the near future.
As the global COVID – 19 outbreak continues I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all those involved so far in the response to this locally within our health service sector, and also to reassure all staff with regard to some of the details of that response, as well the key messages and actions staff should be aware of/taking.
Staff from across the health sector in the Bay of Plenty have been preparing to ensure that we are ready to care for someone with COVID-19 who requires hospital services, should a case be confirmed in the Bay of Plenty.
The majority of people who contract COVID-19 will experience an influenza type illness with fever, gastric upset or respiratory symptoms (cough or shortness of breath). Should symptoms become severe or prolonged they may have a complication such as pneumonia and require hospital level care. Similarly to influenza there will be people who become very unwell and who may die. With COVID-19 this appears to be older people or people with pre-existing health issues.
The key message for staff is to wash your hands, practice good cough etiquette and stay away from work if you are unwell with a temperature, coughing or gastric symptoms. At this stage it is unlikely that you will have COVID-19 however these things will help keep you, your family and patients safe from droplet transmitted infections and are good prevention tips for colds, flu and COVID-19.
Toi Te Ora – Public Health has established a Technical Advisory Group which meets regularly to monitor the situation and to update guidance for clinical staff in primary care and hospitals. Here at the DHB, an Incident Operations Centre has been activated and is working with Toi Te Ora and the PHO teams to ensure we follow recommendations from the Ministry of Health. Toi Te Ora is also working with other services in our community such as the Port, Councils, Aged Residential Care and tourism providers to ensure that they are informed and know what steps to take in the identification of an unwell person.
General Practices have been supplied with information and stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) as required. At this time people who present in primary care are screened by Health Line and only referred to health services if they meet the current case definition – which is that they have travelled from a country with infection or have been in direct contact with a confirmed case AND have symptoms of the virus.
Here at BOPDHB we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19, however we have been providing screening and advice around self-isolation to people who present with concerns and meet the MOH case definition. As you will be aware this case definition changes regularly as COVID-19 is identified in new countries – this means we now ask all people who have returned from anywhere overseas in the last 14 days, and who present with symptoms to identify themselves so that assessment for risk of COVID-19 can be undertaken. Just a reminder symptoms of COVID-19 can include a cough, fever, gastric symptoms and breathing difficulties.
There has been a lot of misinformation on social media, in particular, about COVID-19 but also around events such as the redirection of a cruise ship to the Port of Tauranga. The facts are that we as a country are monitoring the situation closely, screening people who may be at risk of carrying COVID-19 virus and containing risk. We are also preparing.
should the virus become more widespread. As a country we have a national pandemic plan and as the lead agency in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health website can be trusted to have the latest information.
We also have a Bay of Plenty Pandemic Plan. Our plan outlines the various groups involved in our response and their roles in managing should this become a pandemic. Just a reminder that every year we experience ‘small’ pandemics of influenza the difference with COVID -19 is that this is a new virus and therefore we do not have immunity within our population. This means that it may be transmitted more rapidly and impact on more people than we experience with seasonal influenza viruses. In addition there is no vaccination currently available for COVID- 19 and will not be for the next 12-18 months.
As you will have seen in the news we do have the ability to isolate and manage cases in New Zealand at this time.
We will be avoiding admitting all but those people who require specialist hospital level care.