Waikari Hospital … Patients will be relocated to private facilities.


By Robyn Bristow

Two North Canterbury rural hospitals will close temporarily due to the rapidly increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the community.

Patients will be transferred to alternative private facilities.

The decision follows concerns by the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) about the ability to staff the facilities through the peak of the Omicron outbreak.

The Darfield and Ellesmere Hospitals will also close with a total of 23 patients across all four hospitals affected.

CDHB COVID-19 ECC Incident Controller for the Canterbury Health System’s Omicron response, Tracey Maisey, one of the board’s main concerns is that during the outbreak it would not be able to sustain safe staffing levels with appropriately trained staff in the four hospitals.

It was a major risk that could have a serious adverse impact on our residents, she says.

Ms Maisey says the relocation of residents is not ideal and will have its challenges, but the support and assistance of family members is being welcomed and appreciated.

“We will take care and be sensitive to the needs and concerns of patients and family to ensure a smooth transition. We will be looking to relocate them as soon as a new home for each resident is agreed. The move to their new home will be temporary.

“Residents should be back in these hospital facilities within six weeks of the Omicron outbreak’s peak, Ms Maisey says.

The board was moving with urgency to assess each patient and connect with residents’ families or next of kin to decide on a suitable alternative facility for each resident.

“We take our responsibility for their care very seriously and will do everything we can to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

“We appreciate that relocating older people is disruptive and may be upsetting for them. However, we need to ensure that they are living somewhere that is well set up and has the staff resources to make sure they will be well looked after during the pandemic,” Ms Maisey says.

“Finding suitably-qualified, local staff in rural areas can be very challenging, which is why we need to look after and make the best use of our people. As part of our whole-of-system response plan, we will be working with the staff from the facilities we have closed temporarily to identify areas they can be redeployed.”

This would be within CDHB or with local community providers, where their skills as nursing and care providers were needed.

Hurunui Mayor says the temporary closure is disappointing, and she felt for the families of loved ones in the Waikari Hospital and for the wonderful nursing staff.

“But it is all about getting the best care for the patients.

“It is sad to have to take these measures in this uncertain world,” she says.

Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey says he understands the reasons for the closure of Oxford Hospital, but has already had been contacted by residents worried about family members who are patients at the hospital.

“I understand CDHB are looking to transfer some patients to the local aged care facility to ensure they continue to receive the care they need.

“While this has come as a surprise announcement to some, keeping our residents safe is the first concern of our community. I will continue to assist residents where I can.”