Featherston Medical Centre manager Aruni Dias prepared for more testing for Covid-19. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

Suspected case puts local students in isolation
Expert says don’t panic, prepare

KAREN COLTMAN
karen.coltman@age.co.nz

Eight Wairarapa medical centres are set up to test patients for covid-19 and many have already carried out tests.

Just Thursday, a Masterton high school informed its community that a family had advised them that their child, a student of the school, was suspected of having covid-19 and had been tested for the virus.

The students who were identified as having close contact with the student had gone into self-isolation. They will remain in isolation until test results are known and there is clearance from health authorities.

The Times-Age has not named the school because it is not a confirmed case.

But, while there are no confirmed cases of the virus in Wairarapa yet, the focus of primary health organisation Tu Ora Compass Health is for the Wairarapa community and health centres to get prepared.

Featherston Medical manager Aruni Dias said because the centre had available outdoor space, it had invested in a marquee to do testing in.

“We have this marquee up to invite people to have a check-up away from other patients,” Dr Dias said. “This enables us to keep other patients well and keep the community safe.

“This set-up keeps staff safe too so we can continue to stay open and attend to other patients during the pandemic.”

Everyone entering the medical centre was required to wash their hands for 20 seconds before they entered. They were also asked if they had been overseas in the past 14 days.

“We are screening everyone who arrives at the centre now,” Dias said. “We want people to phone ahead before they come in and if people are unwell, I can assure you they will be looked after.”

She said Facebook was not the place to get information about the virus in New Zealand, but the Ministry of Health is. Her main message is don’t panic but get prepared and do what you can to avoid spreading the virus to others or contracting it.

“Have a plan, get organised so you can self-isolate if you need to. Keep a metre away when talking, avoid social touching,” she said.

Masterton, Kuripuni, Carterton, Greytown, and Featherston centres, Whaiora and Martinborough Health Centre are all now required by the Wairarapa PHO to have a safe system operating to test people that present with possible covid-19.

Masterton Medical has set up a temporary two-room building at its centre’s site called the ‘red zone’.

They have staff taking temperatures before they enter the centre and are screening patients.

General manager Robyn Wilson said a person with symptoms would be sent back to their car and then managed safely away from other people.

“We have moved waiting room seating so that people are not too close to each other, we have plenty of hand washing signs and hand sanitising systems.

“We are doing everything we can to help stamp this virus out, so it doesn’t become like it has in other countries.”

Tu Ora Compass Health general manager Justine Thorpe said general practice teams were working hard to prepare and manage the rapidly evolving covid-19 situation.