Work to scale up the health system in preparation for COVID-19 was today outlined by Health Minister David Clark, as he reported back to the new Epidemic Response Committee.
"We are well placed to contain the spread of COVID-19. We have taken early and decisive action at our borders, and that swift action has given us valuable time to refine our plan, and increase our preparedness," said David Clark.
"Since January we have ramped up our testing capacity to 3300 tests per day. That is expected to grow, even in the face of strong international demand for the products used in the testing process.
"More than $40 million has gone towards contact tracing and we have quadrupled Healthline's workforce since the end of January, to over than 500 staff working on COVID-19. We expect staff numbers to continue to increase.
"In Primary Care, we've moved quickly, and have already established 49 Community Based Assessment Centres, where people who have symptoms of COVID-19 can safely be tested. Another 61 Centres are in the works, doubling the number of sites available.
"All GP clinics have also been supplied Personal Protective Equipment, to help protect our GPs, nurses and other staff. Just last week 640,000 face masks were sent to DHBs from the National Reserve Supply and today, it was announced that the Ministry of Health was opening its national reserves of personal protective equipment to make 7 million masks available over coming weeks. The Ministry will begin an initial distribution of 1.2 million masks from the national stock to DHBs within the next 48 hours, so they are able to get masks to community health and disability workers who need them.
"Across our Public Hospitals we have access to 533 ventilators with another 247 in private hospitals and other organisations. More ventilators are on order from overseas. I also announced yesterday that we are fast tracking 36 new intensive care beds at Christchurch Hospital.
"We currently have around 2,500 trained ICU/Critical Care nurses and DHBs are already running refresher courses and training new staff to care for ventilated patients, should that be needed.
"We are fortunate to have such dedicated and professional doctors, nurses, midwives, laboratory scientists, mental health workers and allied health workers. These people provide outstanding care for New Zealanders day in, day out. And we are asking so much of them as we combat COVID-19.
"This a global pandemic. As has been clear with our first death from COVID-19 on Sunday we are not immune to the terrible impacts of this disease. But we are well prepared. We will continue to work to our plan, and continue to do all that we can to keep people safe and well - and ensure that our country bounces back as quickly as possible", said David Clark.