A Rotorua Hospital ward looking after elderly has been closed amid an outbreak of Covid-19 and will remain off-limits to visitors and new admissions for about a week.
A Taupō Inpatient Unit has also been temporarily closed but will be reviewed today, and again on a daily basis.
Rotorua Hospital's Older Persons and Rehabilitation Service and Taupō's Inpatient Unit were confirmed as sites where patients tested positive for Covid-19, Lakes District Health Board said in a statement yesterday.
Routine testing on June 22 found two patients were positive for Covid-19 in Rotorua Hospital's Older Persons and Rehabilitation Service ward.
Eighteen patients had since tested positive and the ward was closed to new admissions and visitors.
Nine staff members also tested positive for Covid-19 and were now recuperating at home.
In Taupō, a Taupō Hospital's Inpatient Unit patient tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday and was transferred to Rotorua Hospital as per the normal procedure.
The Taupō Inpatient Unit was now also closed to visitors. Two possible close contacts were isolated in single rooms and all patients in the ward had been tested.
Lakes District Health Board chief operating officer Alan Wilson told the Rotorua Daily Post the closure of the Taupō Inpatient Unit would be reviewed today and on a daily basis.
In Rotorua, the arrangement would be in place until all patients in the ward had been cleared of Covid, which was usually a week from the patient testing positive, he said.
Wilson said there were no changes apart from the management on the wards.
"Outbreaks in wards cannot be avoided in any hospital with the volume of Covid circulating in the community and with visitors being important to support patients, particularly the elderly while in hospital."
In Rotorua, Wilson said staff from other parts of the hospital were helping to staff the ward and to maintain patient and staff safety.
In Taupō, the only restrictions were on visitors and no staff had tested positive at his point, he said.
"If the situation changes with staff or patients we would need to make further changes in staffing or bed availability."
The World Health Organisation has previously referred to the vulnerability of older people with Covid-19 who were more likely to experience severe effects.
In a Lakes District Health Board statement yesterday, Wilson said as soon as the first patients tested positive in the Rotorua Hospital ward, the unit was closed to visitors and the plan to manage the outbreak was initiated.
This included implementing infection prevention control measures and informing the whānau of patients of what was happening.
Wilson said tracing of the initial infection was under way but it was unlikely the source of Covid entering the unit could be found.
"Although visiting hours are restricted, our hospitals are open for visitors so it's very possible that the infection has been brought in by visitors or staff who had no symptoms.
"This is just one of the challenges that we face as we try as a country and health service to live with Covid. It is therefore critical that all staff, visitors and support people must continue to wear masks appropriately when in hospital to protect patients and staff."
"It is also a reminder that Covid remains an issue in our community and people should remain vigilant - wear masks, stay two metres away from people you don't know, wash your hands frequently and make sure to get your full course of Covid immunisations," Wilson said.
"While most people who are healthy and vaccinated will have a milder illness, Covid is potentially more dangerous for people who are unwell and already in hospital."