Over the next few weeks we will be publishing letters written by Northland DHB chief executive Nick Chamberlain to all Northland DHB staff, primary and community care providers, Māori providers, aged care and home and community support providers as well as iwi and social sector and council leaders. They will run regularly until the conclusion of the Covid-19 crisis. He describes them as letters to those who will become our "war heroes" as they fight to save lives and keep the rest of us safe. "They will hopefully give you an insight into the amount of planning and preparation required and also provide reassurance that we are doing everything we possibly can." Today's letter was sent on March 31.
Hi Everyone and Kia Ora Tatou
So, how's your bubble going? How are your bubbles within bubbles? Have you developed a system to ensure when you go from your work bubble to your home bubble you have decontaminated? I'm using my garage and a separate shower to change and do my best to ensure I keep my family safe. There's plenty of advice online as to what you can do, and we will also be providing it on our internet/intranet sites. I doubt any of it has a strong evidence base, but I'm sure all of you will be doing everything you can. Ok, enough on bubbles; unfortunately I'll probably never be able to blow them again without thinking of Covid-19!
On that note, DHB staff, please ensure you aren't wearing scrubs outside the hospital or in the supermarket etc. Having just read the above, you'll know that isn't very smart. And right now, although you've got the respect and admiration of the community, you're also a bit scary, especially when you're wearing your scrubs!
Speaking of scary, our hospitals are scary places for our public. As you all know, visitor policies have changed, and visitors are not allowed apart from in exceptional circumstances or as a birth partner. Although the policies are there to protect the public, the main reason is to protect our patients and staff! So, I guess we are all a bit scared of each other.
The fear we all feel at times is understandable.
We are in uncharted waters. That's my substitute for "unprecedented", but I thought I'd give you a few others - Unparalleled, unequalled, unmatched, unrivaled, bizarre, extraordinary, remarkable, singular, unheard of, uncommon, anomalous, freakish, outlandish, unique, or even unusual to say the least!
However, along with the fear, the huge economic and social toll, and occasional bad behaviour, there are some positive things we are seeing as human nature shines through. Families are walking together, and if you go for a walk, if you can get past all the teddy bears, people smile and say hello, albeit from at least 2m away. Strangers will even call out from across the street. Rather than just a phone call from time to time, families and friends and loved ones are connecting via FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp etc. I've even had a virtual "drink" with a group of my friends, and will probably see them more in the next few weeks than I would in a year. Granted, right now, many of them have a lot more time on their hands!
My 3-year-old niece had to speak to us last night because she couldn't sleep. She knew we had health jobs and was worried about us. It reminded me that many people will be thinking of you all at the moment. Friends, family and the public are all concerned about you and are right behind you.
Probably one of your greatest fears right now is ensuring you have access to appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Last Friday we were given assurance of adequate PPE and adequate ongoing supplies from the national stock, as long as we use PPE as recommended in the guidelines that are on our Intranet, Internet and the COVID-19.Govt website.
We have accessed more PPE, and it will arrive in our stores by Thursday. We are trying to ensure all hospital departments, community based testing centres, general practices,
Pharmacies, Māori health providers, mental health addiction services and other community providers, aged care facilities and home & community support workers have adequate and appropriate supplies.
We've also heard plenty of examples where people are using far more PPE than is required for their work situation. We understand how much anxiety not wearing a mask etc can cause, and we're certainly not going to try to stop anyone. Still, the guidelines have been developed by very knowledgeable clinicians who have your best interests at heart.
They are aware that inappropriate use of some PPE (e.g. prolonged use of masks) can put you more at risk than not wearing them. We are providing guidance on how long to wear a mask if you feel you have to wear one. Now that we've been reassured that we won't run out when we need it most, we want to make sure you all have adequate and appropriate PPE, and you can make an informed decision based on these guidelines.
I personally want to say an extra special thank you to staff in Ward 16 who have been on the front line in the red zone. This is currently our Covid-19 ward. You are some of our heroes, and some of you are already making sacrifices by living away from your families at a time when families want to be together.
Feedback on my letters has been positive, so I'll continue to write them. However, as I've found over the years, I can't please everyone, and there has been a request for me to provide less fluff, optimism and opinion and much more detailed information on how Northland is doing - numbers of cases, modelling, impact on services etc. This information is and will continue to be provided to you in daily updates on the Northland DHB intranet and internet sites. We will endeavour to make these more focused and detailed paralleling the national information that is provided.
We are trying to ensure that you and all our local communities are well informed about what's going on. We are sharing my letters with the local newspapers. There is all of the well delivered and tightly controlled national information, and clearly, we don't want to contradict or confuse those messages, but there is also a human side to all of this, and I believe Northlanders - while they are at home or working in other essential services - want to know what's going on in our health system.
As we are constantly reminded, this really is the time to be kind to each other. Remember our organisational values; I'm sure they match your values. Smile, stay positive, and treat others as they would like to be treated.