Hospitals throughout Bay of Plenty have made adjustments in the wake of the re-emergence of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

Lakes District Health Board is moving to restrict visitor numbers from midnight tonight.

The Lakes DHB said in a statement, at Covid-19 alert level 2, care must be taken around managing the contact between individuals and meeting social distancing requirements.

"We need to be able to track everyone entering the hospital so that if there are positive cases, we can quickly identify who is at risk and put in place measures to stop the spread of Covid-19," it said.

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Chief operating officer for Lakes DHB Alan Wilson said the arrangements would help ensure there were additional measures in place to protect patients, staff, visitors, families and the wider community.

From tomorrow, all visitors coming into Rotorua or Taupō Hospital will be required to sign in using the covid tracer app or complete the visitors register on entry and exit of the hospital, and to wear a visitor sticker.

The general visiting times for both hospitals will move to 11am to 1pm and 4pm to 6pm daily. This means that only one person may visit at a time in the first visiting hours slot of 11am to 1pm, and later in the day from 4pm to 6pm.

Visiting restrictions at Lakes DHB hospitals are aligned to the Ministry of Health's National Hospital Response Framework, and Lakes hospitals are currently at green on the framework.

Wilson said all people planning on coming to hospital for an appointment or to visit should have no symptoms such as fever or cough, should practice hand hygiene and wear appropriate PPE as directed by staff.

Key features of the restrictions are:
· Two consistent people can be with a patient who is receiving end of life care.
· For parents with a child in the Children's Unit or in the Special Care Baby Unit, there can be one parent or guardian as the support person plus one other visitor.
· A woman in labour can have one support person in the birthing suite and this person can remain with the mother until she is discharged, even if that includes a post natal stay.
· People coming to ED can have only one person with them at any time, as is the case with patients in any other area of the hospitals.

Patients are encouraged to talk regularly with friends and family via phone or by facetime and similar applications. Staff will be available for condition updates to whānau using phone (or facetime) as whānau require.

Public access to Rotorua Hospital will be through the main entrance only.

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Lakes DHB is currently continuing to operate full elective and outpatient services as many patients are waiting longer due to the early cancellations of surgery during the level 4 lockdown.

Meanwhile, the Bay of Plenty District Health Board has also made changes to its visiting policy.

In a statement, the health board said: "People wishing to visit whānau, family and friends in Tauranga and Whakatāne hospitals during Covid-19 alert level 2 are asked to be aware of some restrictions that are currently in place to support the need to maintain social distancing."

Visitor numbers are being limited at tauranga Hospital. Photo / File
Visitor numbers are being limited at tauranga Hospital. Photo / File

In the Emergency Department (ED), Intensive Care Unit (ICU), High Dependency Unit (HDU) and Acute Care Unit (ACU), high-risk areas of the hospitals, the general principle is two nominated visitors per patient with only one visitor at a time, it said.

In other hospital areas, it is one visitor at a time, but more than one person is able to visit during the day.

"Exceptions may be considered in special circumstances and will be assessed on a case by case basis. We encourage our Māori and Pacific Island whānau to request the support of Māori Health Gains and Development when requesting exceptions."

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Acting chief operations officer Bronwyn Anstis said the focus at Alert Level 2 continues to be on protecting patients and staff from any potential risk of exposure to Covid-19, at the same time as recognising the important role of visitors in the healing process.

"In all areas of both hospitals, we are also required to ensure safe physical distancing for all, and this is more challenging to do so in the specialist areas, hence our restrictions.

"We are very grateful to the public during this time for their understanding and helping us to ensure that priority is given to the needs and care of the patients, and the safety and security of staff."

BOPDHB Message from Interim CE, Simon Everitt (14 Aug 2020) from BOPDHB on Vimeo.

Tauranga and Whakatāne hospitals now have one entrance only at each hospital for patients and visitors, who will need to either fill out contact tracing cards or scan the covid tracer app QR code on entry.

"We also remind visitors that if they need to wear a mask, to please bring it with them so we can reserve our masks for patients and staff who need them. Please be especially mindful of core public health precautions such as good hand hygiene and physical distancing. And be kind."

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People who would like more information can phone the Patient Information Centre on 0800 333 477 or email contactus@bopdhb.govt.nz in advance.