MP for Southland Joseph Mooney says the Minister of Health must ensure Southland and Otago are prepared for the possibility of a community outbreak of Covid-19 following two lucky escapes.
After making extensive enquiries about the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) catchment’s readiness to respond to a community outbreak, Mooney was extremely disappointed when Health Minister Andrew Little told him prior to the recent Level 4 Lockdown that SDHB hospitals had access to just 20 ventilators.
What was even more concerning was that the Ministry of Health didn’t know which hospitals had each of the ventilators.
“Kiwis watched as the Delta variant spread rapidly across Australia,” Mooney says.
“Southland Hospital was pushed to the brink by the intensive care of just two sailors with Covid at the beginning of August.”
“It is incredibly disappointing that despite those warning signs, the Ministry of Health didn’t even know where our region’s ventilators were.”
“As it turned out, there were just 20 of them to cover the SDHB’s massive catchment area with a population of around 350,000 people.”
“This is an extraordinary failure of governance.”
“Astonishingly, little had changed in the 18 months since last year’s Level 4 Lockdown.’
“Our communities have made incredible sacrifices to keep COVID out through last year’s lockdown periods.”
“That was necessary because our health system did not have the resources to cope and we all accepted that.”
“However the failure to stock southern hospitals with more ventilators in the 18 months that followed is a case of negligence.”
“There is no excuse for the Ministry of Health not to have been working with the SDHB to properly stock its hospitals with a critical tool that doctors and nurses need to use to care for seriously ill Covid patients.”
“We weren’t prepared for the last year’s nationwide lockdown, but there is no good reason for being so unprepared for the lockdown this August.”
Minister Little has revealed in a reply to a recent Parliamentary Written Question that the SDBH has now increased its stock of ventilators since Mooney first starting asking questions.
The SDHB now has 47 ventilators, with 38 in Dunedin ICU, 8 in Southland ICU and one in a fixed-wing aircraft.
Mooney says he is pleased to see an increase in the number of ventilators since he first started asking questions and that the Minister and the Ministry of Health now knows where the ventilators are.
However, Mooney would like to see a bigger commitment made to prepare the southern region adequately for the possibility of any future community outbreak.
That means addressing serious staffing shortfalls, as well as increasing ventilator stocks further and having the necessary equipment and supplies in SDHB hospitals.
“Our region desperately needs more doctors and nurses, we have seriously overworked staff and we have migrant staff who have been separated from their children for over 18 months because there is no space for them in MIQ.”
“The Government needs to do everything it can to look after the doctors and nurses in New Zealand, as well as making sure we can get as many as possible through our border to ensure our health system is adequately staffed in the event of another outbreak.”
Mooney says he would like to thank all healthcare workers in the southern region for working so hard and diligently to care for our community through this challenging time.
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