Despite a significant drop in ED injury-related admissions during lockdown, medical experts say hospitals should continue to offer full services until resource restrictions become "unavoidable".
A study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, found an overall 43 per cent reduction at a level 1 trauma centre, compared to pre-lockdown levels.
Researchers recorded all admissions over two 14-day periods before and during the national Covid-19 level 4 lockdown.
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Pre-lockdown, there were 124 admissions to the trauma centre compared to 108 during the same time the previous year.
During lockdown, there were 71 admissions to the trauma centre, compared to 142 this time last year.
The biggest drop was males (down 50 per cent), major injury (down 50 per cent) children 0–14 years old (down 48 per cent), and non-Māori (down 48 per cent).
The smallest decrease, which was 28 per cent, was females.
"This suggests that males are at high risk of non-lockdown activities such as road traffic crashes, work, school and sport."
By allowing hospitals to continue to provide full services, this will ensure that the highest levels are maintained, complications are reduced and ultimately injury outcomes are improved, researchers said.
Serious catch-up looms
It comes after emergency doctors warned New Zealanders about the "serious catch-up" that was looming after lockdown's lifted and the urgent need to prepare.
"We are very worried about the people who are not seeking care, and/or are presenting late ... and we are holding our breath for what is coming once lockdown is lifted," top Waikato emergency doctor John Bonning told the Herald earlier this week.
He said urgent action was needed to prepare for this "massive challenge ahead of us".
"Now, we need the politicians, the health managers and us all to think about the recovery stage and business as usual, getting things back on track by starting to do elective surgeries and clinic appointments."
Ministry of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Andrew Simpson said studies like this were useful for providing context for planning and forecasting workloads for other alert levels.
"They show the benefit of continuing to provide emergency services during the lockdown, for instance the 11 patients with severe trauma treated and cared for by Waikato hospital staff in the first two weeks of the lockdown.
"The Ministry is working closely with DHBs to ensure the appropriate level of care is able to be provided, while still allowing for the training and preparations required for managing pandemic cases."
Yesterday, director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the ministry was talking with DHBs to see what services could operate under alert level 3.
Researchers said not surprisingly the rates of road trauma fell during lockdown as road
"There was a slight increase in the number of injuries related to farm work, as may be expected in conditions where farm work is considered an essential service and farmers continue to work under the conditions of level 4 lockdown."
More awareness on preventing injuries
In terms of awareness raising and injury prevention, the actions of the general public to reduce the risk of home-based trauma during lockdown should be recognised and encouraged, they said.
Simpson said the Ministry supported the work done by the Health Quality and Safety Commission on falls prevention, and other work done by ACC in accident prevention.
Kirsten Malpas, Injury Prevention leader at ACC, said while these were unprecedented times, what hasn't changed is that most injuries are preventable.
"Around the home it is often the small things – take the time to do jobs well without rushing and taking a moment to become aware of tripping hazards.
"Our home is typically the place we feel safest but it's actually the most dangerous place in New Zealand, based on injury claims data. Now with so many people packed into one space, it increases the risk of things going wrong."
Anyone needing medical help during the lockdown should seek it by first ringing Healthline 0800 611 116 or their local general practice.
Tips to prevent trips and falls:
• Be sure to take simple steps like tucking power cords away from walkways and common areas. Even better, tape them down to secure them. This is especially important if you have shared working spaces in common areas like the kitchen table. Phone chargers, monitor cables and power cords can be tidied with zip ties or tape.
• Clear clutter away, and keep objects like toys, shoes, books and bags away from stairs and walkways.
• For family members over 65, staying active with regular exercise is a great way to help build leg and core strength that will help reduce the risk of a fall.