Media start to question Government handling of Covid

The Government has been given fairly favourable by the media over their handling of the Covid pandemic (apart from sideshows like David Clark), but now seems to have changed to take on a more questioning role.

Gezza has noted:

1News at 6 tonite was interesting. They focussed most, I thought, for the first time on the various complaints & issues that are now coming to the fore, & in particular were critical of Jacinda’s response to a question at her briefing today when she told reporters that there are plenty of stocks of flu vaccinations, now widely available, & earlier this year than usual.

After being told that numerous GPs & patients are saying they cannot get enuf flu shots for their areas, 1News showed a 1-2 second clip of Jacinda dismissing those reports as untrue, saying simply that she “did not accept the premise of the question”.

In typical lamestream tv media fashion, we didn’t get to hear the reporter’s question or anything else but that one sentence, so we don’tbknow the full context. But they took a negative angle, the implication being that she was untruthful, spinning, or just wrong.”

They also reported on the government’s failure to cough up GP funding. And on the economic strife Sounds Air is (Phil Twyford said, however, that Cabinet is working on an assistance package for them).

This is the first time I’ve seen TV1 take a critical & negative slant to their reporting on Covid-19 & Jacinda. So it was quite noticeable I thought.

Stuff: Contact tracing system blamed for New Zealand remaining in Covid-19 lockdown

An under-resourced contact tracing system blamed for keeping New Zealand in lockdown has the capacity to investigate fewer than 200 coronavirus cases each day.

An audit of the system released on Monday showed that health officials tasked with interviewing and tracking the close contacts of people with Covid-19 had been swamped by fewer than 100 daily cases of the virus prior to New Zealand entering lockdown.

Stuff: Doctors say Government not coughing up ‘promised’ Covid-19 funding

The professional body for doctors has vowed to keep fighting the government for refusing to cough up “promised” Covid-19 funds.

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) insists it was told GPs would receive an extra $22m in government funding on top of $45m already allocated, to help ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared to rule out this payment – or that it even existed.

NZMA’s General Practitioner Council’s chairwoman Jan White told Stuff she wouldn’t accept that the funds were not coming and the association will keep trying to push its case for help.

Newsroom: Will pharmacies, GPs and dentists survive Covid-19?

Representatives of pharmacies, GPs, rest homes, dentists and disability support workers fronted the Epidemic Response Select Committee on Wednesday to warn they aren’t receiving the support they need from the Government. With decreased patronage and in increase in costs related to Covid-19 prevention, many healthcare businesses are worried they may go under.

Kate Baddock, chair of the New Zealand Medical Association, which represents all doctors, said that while medical students and hospital doctors had been affected by Covid-19, “very importantly, the greatest impact has been on general practice”.

Baddock said people had stopped going to the GP for fear of getting Covid-19 or because they didn’t want to burden their doctors. That has led to a serious gap in revenue for many practices, which supplement the capitation payments they receive from the Government with copayments from patients.

“For community pharmacies to continue performing their vital role for patients, it is critical to ensure that the sector has ongoing stability and financial sustainability during these extraordinary times and into the future,” Andrew Gaudin, CEO of the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, told the select committee.

“Our community pharmacies have incurred significant costs to make their pharmacies safe for their staff and the public while also seeing their sales and prescriptions fall significantly,” Gaudin said.

“The disability sector entered the pandemic already in the midst of well-documented and longstanding funding shortfalls. In the current circumstances, the cost of ensuring that an essential service such as these continues to provide safe and quality support for disabled people is significant. Now we have a significant proportion of providers who are financially exposed,” New Zealand Disability Support Network chief executive Garth Bennie told the committee.

Dential practices are forbidden from engaging in non-essential work and must often secure their own PPE because they are generally not government-funded, New Zealand Dental Association president Katie Ayers told the select committee.

“The cost to purchase the PPE to treat just one patient is approximately $80. It’s not fair to expect patients to pay this surcharge on top of the fee for the emergency – ie, unplanned – treatment they require. Yet, dental practices cannot sustain this process either,” she said.

Some of these criticisms have come out of the Epidemic response Committee hearings (so the committee has been a worthwhile check on Government actions).

The Government and the Ministry of Health have been operating in a very challenging and rapidly evolving situation, but require scrutiny and where justified, criticism.

Tough times for many businesses and health care providers, and tough for the Government to deal with all of their problems, but they need to try to help as much as possible.

Audit of Contact Tracing for Covid-19 in New Zealand

Effective contact tracing is essential in limiting the spread of a virus., and that has been brought to public and Government attention with the current Covid-19 pandemic.  A report has been done on it in relation to Covid-19 has been done by Dr Ayesha Verrall of University of Otago.

She says the contact tracing system in place when Covid-19 pandemic started was inadequate.

RNZ: Contact tracing too slow, must be expanded – audit

Contact tracing needs to increase three- or four-fold as long as the Covid-19 coronavirus remains a health threat, Dr Ayesha Verrall’s audit has found.

Authored by infectious diseases expert Dr Ayesha Verrall, it said public health units’ contact tracing capability was too slow and must be expanded three- or four-fold as long as the virus remained a health threat.

“The capacity of the 12 Public Health Units in New Zealand is the primary factor limiting New Zealand’s ability to scale up its case management and contact tracing response to Covid-19,” she said in the audit.

“In March the workload of PHUs exceeded their capacity to conduct rapid contact tracing on occasion, even though case numbers were less than 100 per day,” she said.

Expansion of the workforce was an “urgent” need, and DHBs could not keep on plugging the holes by seconding staff from other areas once alert level 4 was lifted, the audit said.

She said that as it stood she would not have been comfortable with the country going to alert level 3 this week.

“Not as it is. But these improvements I understand are being made every day, the government appears to be putting a lot of resource into it and accepted the recommendations in my report, so in that case, yes I would be [comfortable],” she told Checkpoint.

The detail of how small bubbles would be maintained under level 3 gave her reassurance, she said.


Rapid Audit of Contact Tracing for Covid-19 in New Zealand

On 9 April 2020 I met with Ministry of Health Officials and National Close Contact Service workers and interviewed Medical Officers of Health by telephone. This report summarises my findings and makes recommendations for improvements to contact tracing to control Covid-19 in New Zealand.