This page features news, information and resources relating to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak in the Nelson Marlborough region.

NMH COVID-19 news

NMH COVID-19 update: 21 May 2020 - click to read
This update provides information about confirmed and probable cases in the Nelson Marlborough region, community-based assessment centre data and any new information for our communities.

Recent news updates

Important information

During Alert Level 2 health and disability services will operate as normally as possible, with infection prevention measures still firmly in place.

Planned care, including elective surgery and radiology, will be provided in order of clinical priority. Some non-urgent services or treatment may be deferred during Level 2 and some outpatient appointments will continue to be offered by phone or video consultation.

GP appointments will be provided online or by phone unless you need to see a doctor or nurse face-to-face. GPs and nurses will continue to provide urgent care, care for long-term conditions and routine care such as screening, antenatal and new-born care, mental health consults, prescriptions and treatment of common illnesses. You will be referred to specialists if needed.

Community midwives will continue face-to-face, phone or video appointments. Community dental services will open for routine care, and emergency dental services remain available.

Cancer screening programmes are gradually returning to normal. People who missed their breast or cervical screening appointments during Alert Level 3 or 4 will be contacted to make new appointments. Bowel screening is resuming in a phased manner. Refer to the Time to Screen website for details.

Community mental health and addictions services are available, and urgent mental health services continue as usual.
A broader range of information is available on the Ministry of Health website here.

During Alert Level 2 planned care, including elective surgery and radiology, will start again and be provided in order of clinical priority.

Some non-urgent services or treatment may still be deferred during Level 2. Some outpatient appointments will continue to be offered by phone or video consultation. 

If you have an outpatient appointment at the hospital, please attend this unless you have been contacted and told otherwise. If you are unwell, please call the phone number on your appointment letter to re-schedule. You may bring a support person to a clinic appointment if you need to.

A broader range of information about health and disability services, including cancer screening, during Alert Level 2 is available on the Ministry of Health’s website here.

How we keep our hospitals safe for you to visit

If you have a hospital appointment, or need to attend an emergency department. please do not worry that you are at risk of catching COVID-19.

Our hospitals are safe for you to visit:

  • very strict infection prevention procedures have been in place for months
  • any hospital inpatients who have COVID-19 symptoms are being cared for in an isolation ward
  • the hospitals are not busy with people, due to the restricted visitor numbers, some staff working from home and the reduced elective surgery rates. This means that our waiting rooms and shared spaces are roomy enough for you to be able to keep your distance from other people
  • healthcare workers are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) where required

Healthcare for urgent and emergency needs is available

Healthcare services for urgent and emergency needs has been available, and has not changed, from the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please do not hesitate to go to an emergency department, or call an ambulance in an emergency. 

Primary healthcare is still available

Please do not delay getting medical advice for any healthcare needs.

You can still see a pharmacist, doctor, nurse, midwife, counsellor and other healthcare professionals – just in a different way. You may be offered consultation via phone, email or video. If you need to be seen in-person, arrangements will be made for this to happen safely for you.

Please see the 'Need care? It's still here' section on this webpage for more information.

Please don't neglect your health during any Alert Level. What may start as a minor issue could become serious if you leave it too long.

You can still see a pharmacist, doctor, nurse, midwife, counsellor and other healthcare professionals – just in a different way. You may be offered consultation via phone, email or video. If you need to be seen in-person, arrangements will be made for this to happen safely for you.

GP visits are free for children under 14 (including after-hours care) and are subsidised for Community Service Card holders. Pharmacies offer free advice and some offer the free flu vaccination for eligible people. 

Healthline's normal (non-COVID specific) line is 0800 611 116. Phone calls are free – including from a mobile phone. Healthline is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. The Healthline team can arrange an interpreter to talk with you in your language – when your call is answered, say you'd like an interpreter and the language you'd like to speak in. They can also engage with the NZ Relay Services and support the Deaf, hearing impaired, Deafblind and speech impaired. 

After-hours, you can get help from an urgent care centre. If it's an emergency, call 111 or go to a hospital emergency department. These services are not affected by COVID-19.

You do not need to be worried about catching COVID-19 at a hospital, clinic or health centre. New Zealand healthcare providers follow international best practice for infection prevention. This is why things will look different. Doors may be closed. You may be screened before you come in (asked questions about your health), given a mask to wear, or assessed in a cabin outside of the main building. These are all precautions to keep you and others safe.

Need care? It's there. Please don't delay getting medical advice when you need it. Find out where to get healthcare:

www.nmdhb.govt.nz/healthcare

https://covid19.govt.nz/individuals-and-households/health-and-wellbeing/how-to-access-healthcare/

It’s OK to ask for help. As we work through this together, there are people and agencies
able to support you. Here’s a range of advice, help, or support if you need it:

https://covid19.govt.nz/assets/resources/COVID-19-Welfare-contact-card-A4.pdf

Here are some local supports in addition to the list in the link above:

Nelson/Tasman welfare support: 0800 505 075

Marlborough welfare support: 03 520 7400

Age Concern and 'phone a friend' service: 03 544 7624

 

Locations and operating hours

Tahunanui, Nelson

  • At the former Suburban Club building, 168 Tahunanui Drive
  • 10am until 4pm, Monday to Friday
  • Phone 0800 358 4636

Blenheim

  • At the old netball courts off Horton Park, 29b Redwood Street
  • 11am until 2pm, Monday to Friday
  • Phone 0800 3584636

Takaka

  • Outside the Golden Bay Community Health Centre, 10 Central Takaka Rd
  • The hours may change: Call 03 525 0060
  • Please phone first for confirmation that you should go to the centre

 

What are my options if I live in Picton or Murchison?

Safe assessment sites have been set up in Picton and Murchison.

At the Picton Medical Centre a cabin has been set up outside of the building to allow the safe assessment of people with COVID-19 symptoms, away from other patients in waiting rooms. This is available during the center's operating hours on weekdays from 9am to 5pm. Phone: 03 520 3222

At Murchison Hospital and Health Centre, a negative pressure room is being used for safe assessment. Call the centre on: 03 523 1120.

 

What if I need assessment outside of the CBAC working hours?

People seeking assessment outside of these hours are asked to stay at home – away from school and work and other populated places. They should call Healthline (0800 538 5453) or their GP for advice.

In urgent situations, they can phone an urgent care centre in Nelson or Blenheim.

 Nelson Medical & Injury Centre:

  • 98 Waimea Rd
  • 8am to 10pm, 7 days a week
  • 03 546 8881

Urgent Care Centre, Blenheim:

  • Wairau Hospital (near ED), Hospital Rd
  • 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week
  • 03 520 6377

In emergencies, people should phone 111 or attend a hospital emergency department (ED). 

You should contact a community-based assessment centre (CBAC) if you develop any COVID-19 symptoms. These are:

  • A fever (high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more)
  • A cough
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • A sore throat
  • Sneezing and a runny or dripping nose
  • A temporary loss of sense of smell

It’s especially important to contact a CBAC if you live in the same house with a large family, or if you live in a communal environment (such as a hostel or apartment block).

If you are immunocompromised (eg an oncology or diabetes patient), please go to a hospital emergency department instead of a CBAC for assessment.

The contact details for CBACs are listed on this webpage under 'Where can I find a community-based assessment centre?'

People who go to a community-based assessment centre (CBAC) will be seen free of charge.

When you go to a CBAC you may be met by clinicians wearing protective masks and other personal protective equipment.

They will ask you 'screening questions' to determine if you need to be assessed (examined by a doctor). Screening also happens on the phone when you call a CBAC, GP or Healthline on the phone. Once screened, you may be assessed (examined by a doctor) inside a CBAC building. After the assessment, the doctor may then decide to test you.

Testing is where a swab (sample) is taken from your nose and sent to a laboratory for testing. If you are tested, it is very important that you stay in careful isolation at home and follow the physical distancing rules.

You will be called on the phone with the test results, usually within 48 hours. If your test is negative, you will be phoned by your GP. If it is positive, you will be phoned by the Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service.

The symptoms for COVID-19 are:

  • a fever (high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more
  • a cough
  • shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • a sore throat
  • sneezing and a runny or dripping nose
  • a temporary loss of sense of smell

You should contact a community-based assessment centre (CBAC) if you develop any COVID-19 symptoms. 

CBAC locations and contact details are listed on this webpage.

In simple terms a probable case is someone where the suspicion of disease is so high that the clinicians believe this is more than likely a case than not but cannot prove this by lab testing. Whereas A confirmed case has 'laboratory definitive evidence'.

Here are the ways that someone may be diagnosed as a probable COVID-19 case:

  1. They are a close contact of a confirmed case and meet the clinical criteria, but cannot readily be tested
  2. The clinician assessing them believes that, based on clinical symptoms and their exposure history, that they are very likely to be a case 

Why is a probable case sometimes reclassified as a confirmed case?

Every so often a ‘probable’ case is reclassified as a ‘confirmed’ case. This has been happening since the Ministry of Health revised the case definition for COVID-19, which resulted in a change to the testing requirements.

Since the case definition changed, we have retested some people who previously had negative results or didn’t get tested due to the case definition at the time, and who were diagnosed as a probable case.

If their new test comes back as positive, we change their status to ‘confirmed’.

The Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service (NMPHS) undertakes contact tracing for confirmed cases, and their close contacts (eg families, flatmates who live in the same house) in our region.

Other contact tracing (eg for people on flights), is undertaken by the specialised national close contact tracing service.

Our message for the community is that the NMPHS, and the national close contact tracing service, undertake expert contact tracing to reach close contacts – the people most at risk – as they determine necessary. Close contacts will be contacted directly.

Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) will not disclose personal information about a confirmed case’s movements if it is not useful to the contact tracing process or when that contact’s movements have not placed the public at risk.

NMH will take a proactive approach and alert the public (eg via media release and social media) about a location, or event, when this is determined necessary. A public alert would be issued when it has been determined that members of the public at a certain location or event may be possible casual contacts, and would be unable to be identified and contacted through the contact tracing process.

The process

  1. Any positive COVID-19 case is statutorily reported to a Medical Officer of Health in the NMPHS
  2. Every case is then interviewed by a NMPHS employee to determine risk factors, including travel
  3. Contact tracing commences 
  4. Every case is monitored by the NMPHS until a Medical Officer of Health has determined that it is safe for the person to come out of isolation

For definitions of close and casual contacts, and more information about contact tracing, go to the Ministry of Health's website.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) advises DHBs to release case info only at territorial authority (ie, division by regional or district council) level.

This is primarily to protect the privacy of individuals. The MoH provides the following information for each case: Gender, age range and any relevant travel details. If a DHB were add to this data, by providing a specific location for that case, the person’s identity could be assumed – either correctly or incorrectly. This could lead to a privacy breach.

Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) decided to confirm Golden Bay data on 18 April in direct response to community demand for this information. By doing so, NMH is one of very few DHBs to break case data down beyond territorial authority level.

Here is the MoH guidance to DHBs:
Information about testing and cases (both confirmed and probable) can be released at either the DHB or TA level as per Ministry of Health guidelines.

It should be noted that the release of TA level information should be exercised with discretion where there is a risk of compromising patient confidentiality, especially in light of information being released on a national level. The Ministry continues to see some inappropriate behaviour against people who are being tested or have/had COVID-19 by some parts of the community. We continue to need to act to respect patient confidentiality.

Slight adjustments have been made to the Nelson Marlborough Health visitors’ policy while continuing to protect patients and staff from any potential risk of exposure to Covid19.

Patients who are not in high risk areas in Nelson and Wairau Hospitals may still have only one visitor at any one time but they can now nominate three names of visitors who will be able to visit during their stay.

However, restrictions remain in force for high risk areas such as the Emergency Department, Intensive Care, High Dependency Unit, Special Care Baby Unit, maternity units or any ward with Covid 19 suspected or positive patients.
In these areas only one visitor and one visit per day will be allowed.

Visitors are advised to check they have been nominated by a patient before visiting as they may be turned away.

In maternity wards women may include one person for labour and birth support and one visitor per day while they are an inpatient in an antenatal or postnatal ward. No children are to visit maternity units.

The new policy is effective immediately.

Lexie O’Shea, General Manager Clinical Services, Nelson Marlborough Health says she is very appreciative of the public’s response to the changing visiting policy put in place over the last few weeks.
“We acknowledge how important connections with family and friends are for healing and wellbeing and I am grateful for the support and understanding we have received from the public,” she says. “It is this support that has enabled us to protect our staff and our patients and ensure their safety.”
Where possible, family and whanau are still encouraged to keep in touch with patients in hospital by text, video calls, social media or phone calls.
Requests for exceptions to the visiting policy level on compassionate grounds will be considered carefully and in line with the Ministry’s guidance and at the discretion of the Charge Nurse/Midwife Manager for the ward or area concerned.


Under Alert Level 2 visiting policy:
• visitors will be asked screened questions
• anyone with symptoms, or who has had contact with a confirmed or probable cases in the last 14 days, will not be allowed to enter
• visitors’ names and contact details will be registered
• visiting hours are between 2.30pm and 8.30pm Monday to Sunday, unless there is a prior arrangement with the ward charge nurse manager
• visitors must enter through the main doors at each hospital
• children under 16 are not permitted to visit except by prior arrangement with the ward or medical area concerned.
• visitors must follow precautions: wash or sanitise their hands before and after visiting, and maintain two metre physical distancing from strangers and at least one metre from people including friends, family and whanau (no hugs). If a visitor is unwell or has flu-like symptoms they should stay home

• If a visitor is unwell or has flu-like symptoms they should stay home
• flowers are discouraged (and not allowed in some areas) but gifts, books, pens and toiletries are permitted (as long as these items go home with the patient)
• only one person may enter the building, after screening, to collect a patient.

Information for outpatients (people with hospital appointments)
People coming to a DHB facility for an outpatient, radiology, or laboratory appointment should come alone unless they have been advised to bring someone with them or they require assistance with mobility or comprehension issues or need an interpreter. The exceptions to this are oncology appointments, or if accompanying a child.

People should attend their scheduled appointments at the hospital unless they have been contacted and told otherwise, or if they are unwell, in which case they should ring to re-schedule.

The continued restricted visitor access is part of measures that all New Zealand hospitals are taking to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by reducing the numbers of people that move through hospitals.

NMH will monitor and review the policy measures as required.

Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) established an Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) in late January 2020 to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak.

The ECC comprises members from health, councils, iwi-led agencies, emergency management groups, NZ Police and other regional partners. The multi-agency ECC shares a common purpose – to protect the health and wellbeing of the Nelson Marlborough population, without increasing health inequities.

In addition to the ECC, there are three NMH emergency operations centres and three technical advisory groups in place. All groups are working together to prepare regional hospitals, health centres, GP clinics and community healthcare providers for more confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Like all district health boards, NMH is following the lead of the National Health Coordination Centre and all-of-Government response.

NMH hospital beds and equipment

There are 244 beds available across both hospitals. There is capacity, as planned for in hospital pandemic planning, to reconfigure bed use and wards as required.

     BED OR EQUIPMENT TYPE          NELSON HOSPITAL                WAIRAU HOSPITAL           
Ventilators 15 10
Negative pressure rooms 4 4
Intensive care unit (ICU) beds 7 4

The safety of our staff is Nelson Marlborough Health's highest priorities.

The restriction of visitors to our hospitals will help protect our staff from being exposed to COVID-19. The postponement of non-urgent elective procedures (planned care) will allow our staff to prioritise their planning and preparation for more cases of COVID-19. 

Staff are being trained on how to manage patients with COVID-19, and simulations or ‘dummy’ practice runs are being undertaken. In many cases the protocols and health pathways are similar to those already tested and proven for other infectious respiratory diseases. 

We will ensure that we have the personal protective equipment (PPE) required for staff and that they are aware of the correct procedures in dealing with COVID-19.

Is it safe to deliver and receive hand-delivered mail or goods?

Your hand-delivered mail and goods are safe to handle. 

NMH Clinical Director of Public Health, Dr Stephen Bridgman says that there is negligible risk of COVID-19 being transmitted on the surface of mail or packaged items. This is because there is no evidence of community transmission (spread) of COVID-19 in the Nelson Marlborough region, currently. Nearly all local cases have been linked to travel or close contact with someone who has travelled, all cases have been in isolation, and Nelson Marlborough has not had a person with a positive COVID-19 test since April 3rd. This means that COVID-19 is not circulating in our communities, and certainly not on mail or packages.

Hygiene is very important to keep mail and goods clean
While the risk of the COVID-19 virus being transmitted on mail or goods is negligible, employees and volunteers who deliver mail and goods (such as meals on wheels) to people’s homes should still follow basic but thorough hygiene practices. These include:

  • physical distancing (eg delivering the goods at a 2m distance from other people)
  • good hand hygiene and cough etiquette (coughing into an elbow or disposable tissue)
  • regular cleaning of surfaces and frequently touched items (such as steering wheels and pens)
  • avoid touching face, eyes, mouth and nose.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) do not recommend the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for delivery services, as outlined in this resource [MoH website]: 

In addition to the MoH guidance: The Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service does not recommend the routine use of gloves when delivering goods This is because gloves are more likely to become dirty, compared to the preferable practice of frequent and thorough hand washing.

 

Resources to share

Further information about COVID-19 can be found on the following sites:

Alert Level 2:

Alert Level 3:

Links

The COVID-19 website has published a range of information in the following languages:

Posters & factsheets

High Five for Clean Hands (Source: Health Promotion Agency / Ministry of Health)

Coronavirus - Help Stop the Spread / Feeling unwell? Stay home and use the phone (Source: Nelson Marlborough Health).

Available in:

If you have a social media account, please follow and share:

There is a range of graphics and resources to share online: