The Long Term Care COVID-19 situation in Aotearoa New Zealand

LTCIt was while browsing through my twitter feed not long after New Zealand went into level 4, that I came across a message from the Long Term Care Policy Network in the UK. This group, led by Adelina Comas-Herrara from the London School of Economics and Political Science, were calling for countries to submit reports on the impact of COVID-19 on people who use and provide Long Term Care. They were interested in sharing the measures adopted by different countries to contain and mitigate the impact of the virus.  I thought this was a wonderful way of sharing our experiences from Aotearoa New Zealand; that “small geographically isolated country in the pacific” as we have been referred to many times in relation to the global pandemic.

Lucky for me Dr Sarah Cullum from the School of Psychological Medicine at the University of Auckland had also seen the tweet and responded with interest to submit a country report.  We joined forces, along with Sarah’s PhD student Etuini Ma’u to bring together resources and information on how New Zealand had responded to COVID-19 in supporting those people living and working in long term care facilities.  The report highlighted:

  • The Ministry of Health (MOH) identified five significant COVID-19 clusters in aged residential care (ARC) facilities, <1% of the 650 facilities throughout the country
  • There were 153 COVID-19 cases linked to five ARC clusters accounting for 10.2% of all cases in the country. Cases of COVID-19 consisted of 39 residents and 78 health care workers, with a further 36 linked to the health-care workers.
  • There were 16 COVID-19 related deaths in residents of ARC facilities, the majority occurring in hospital.
  • The early stages of pandemic planning by the New Zealand Ministry of Health (MoH) and District Health Boards (DHB) focused on hospital and secondary care.
  • Planning for the impact on the ARC sector was limited in the early stages of the pandemic. When cases began to occur in ARC facilities, the MoH in partnership with the DHBs began to develop policies and procedures to support the ARC sector.
  • While ARC facilities had existing infection control and pandemic policies, none were prepared for the scale of the outbreak or the resulting reduction in care home staff as a result of standing down staff who had contact with COVID19 cases.
  • The psychosocial impact on staff, resident, and whānau (family) wellbeing is thought to have been significant.

As a result of our country report we have been asked to contribute to a special issue on COVID19 and Long Term Care for the Journal of Long Term Care; another opportunity to share our experiences from Aotearoa, New Zealand. The Long Term Care Policy Network has an active blog and twitter account and are producing a significant amount of documentation on what has been a global response to the pandemic in long term care.

If you would like further information about the report please contact Dr Jackie Robinson j.robinson@auckland.ac.nz You can find all the country reports including the one for Aotearoa NZ at https://ltccovid.org/

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