Health and disability services at Alert Level 1

Information on how we access health and disability services at Alert Level 1.

Last updated: 12 June 2020

From 11:59pm on Monday 8 June, New Zealand is at Alert Level 1.

At Alert Level 1, there are a few small differences in how we access health and disability services. These are summarised below. You can also read about ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 at Alert Level 1.

On this page:


Key things to understand 

Health and disability services will be running as normal under Alert Level 1 but some precautions will be in place to protect people who are more at risk of severe COVID-19 from exposure to the virus.

Strict adherence to infection prevention and control protocols will continue, and staff who are unwell must stay at home.

COVID-19 related precautions are not expected to affect the availability or timeliness of health or disability services.

Strict adherence to infection prevention and control protocols and COVID-19 risk screening for patients may be a requirement prior to arrival, or on entrance to health facilities. Staff may ask you if you have been overseas recently, had contact with anyone who has been overseas recently, or had any potential recent exposure to COVID-19 such as being a close contact of a confirmed or probable case. People with acute respiratory symptoms might be asked to access services digitally, or over the phone, rather than in person. You may also be asked to wear a face mask to protect others while awaiting assessment.

COVID-19 testing will be done in places including Community Based Assessment Centres (CBACs), or general practices.

Hospitals 

Hospitals are open as usual and will be using all available additional capacity to address back-logs of people whose care was delayed during Alert Levels 2, 3 and 4.

Backlogs for outpatient appointments, diagnostic services and planned care, including elective surgery and radiology, will be addressed in order of clinical priority.

Infection prevention and control measures are an ongoing priority to ensure the safety of patients, visitors and staff from all infections. These could include the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) depending on the nature of interactions and care required.

Outpatient appointments will continue to be delivered via phone, video-call or other remote technology where clinically appropriate and suitable for patients.

Visitors are important for patients in hospital, but overcrowding must be avoided, and we must continue to keep our patients, health workers and visitors safe, so each DHB will determine appropriate visiting arrangements for their different clinical areas, within guidance provided by the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Health has provided specific infection prevention and control guidance for visitors of COVID-19 cases.

General practices

General practices will be open and will offer the full range of services that they delivered prior to COVID-19.

Patients should have flexibility when it comes to accessing their care and will continue to be offered both telehealth or in person consultations. 

In-person visits may be preceded by a telephone call assessment, or assessment at the entrance to the practice to assess the patient’s risk of COVID-19.

Infection prevention and control measures are an ongoing priority to ensure the safety of patients, visitors and staff from all infections. These could include the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) depending on the nature of care required.

COVID-19 testing, aligned to guidance from the Ministry of Health, can be done in several places including Community Based Assessment Centres (CBACs), or general practices.

Community health services

Community based health services generally return to normal, with infection prevention and control measures and other public health measures to prevent the spread infections. These include: hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, regular cleaning of high touch surfaces and items as well as the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where appropriate and according to risk assessments. Contract tracing will be enabled, for example, by using the NZCOVID Tracer app. Staff who are unwell must stay home and not go to work.

Appointments for allied health services such as physiotherapy, podiatry, and optometry can operate as normal after COVID-19 risk screening. Patients should have flexibility when it comes to accessing their care and will continue to be offered both telehealth or in person consultations. 

In-person visits may be preceded by a telephone call or assessment at reception to assess the patient’s risk of COVID-19, according to Ministry of Health guidance.

Community pharmacies will offer the full range of their services, and appointments will resume as usual.

Customers with acute respiratory symptoms will be asked not to go to the pharmacy where possible and to phone for advice first.

Community midwives will resume care as normal.

Individual DHBs will determine the visiting/support policy for their maternity units. However, hospitals are encouraged to allow birthing women the same number of support people as before the COVID-19 response.

Community dental services are open for routine, urgent and emergency care.

Confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, and people waiting for COVID-19 test results, can receive urgent and emergency dental treatment only with clinicians meeting PPE and room requirements. Updates are provided on the Dental Council website

Scheduling of those with medical conditions increasing the risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or of those over 70 will be carefully managed.

Well Child Tamariki Ora services return to normal with emphasis on hygiene measures and assessing parents and children for COVID-19 risk before contact with their provider.

As services return to normal Well Child Tamariki Ora providers will prioritise vulnerable whānau and those with young pēpi who have missed care during higher Alert Levels.

Virtual care delivery will continue to be used where it is appropriate (e.g. for extra support or assessment).

Screening services

All screening services return to normal operation under Alert Level 1, however the facilities where these services take place may have some additional COVID-19 precautions (such as basic COVID-19 risk assessments) in place. You should contact the service provider ahead of time to discuss this.

Basic hygiene measures including hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, as well as cleaning of surfaces and equipment will continue.

Cancer screening programmes are now operating as normal.

People who missed their breast or cervical screening appointments during Alert Levels 2, 3 or 4 will be contacted to make new appointments. Your provider will be in contact.

Bowel screening is now operating as normal. People who received a home test kit and were asked to put it aside until further advice, can complete it and send it back. If you have any concerns about your symptoms, please talk to your GP.

DHBs are scheduling colonoscopies and new invitations are now going out to patients.

Antenatal and newborn screening services are returning to being provided as part of routine maternity care.

Please contact your maternity care provider for advice about any difference in procedures for attending appointments during Alert Level 1.

More information about bowel, breast and cervical screening can be found at Time to Screen.

Immunisations

Immunisations are being provided as normal in Alert Level 1, however the facilities or providers who conduct these services may have some additional COVID-19 precautions in place.

People who have missed immunisations during Alert Levels 4, 3 and 2 will be contacted to schedule an appointment.

If you need to organise an immunisation it is best to contact your healthcare provider ahead of time so they can explain any different processes that are in place during Alert Level 1.

Basic hygiene measures including hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, as well as cleaning of surfaces and equipment will continue.

Disability and aged care services 

All Disability Support Services will operate as normal under Alert Level 1 with visiting policies as they were before the COVID-19 Alert Level system.

All services will have COVID-19 risk screening, will adhere to infection prevention controls, and will record people’s details to enable contact tracing where appropriate. Alert Level 1 PPE guidance is to be followed.

People who are more at risk of becoming very unwell from COVID-19 may choose to take extra precautions. These people may want to consider discussing with their doctor what kind of precautions might be appropriate in their situation.

Aged residential care will operate as normal under Alert Level 1 with visiting policies operating as they were before the COVID-19 Alert Level system. 14-day isolation for admissions to aged residential care is not required.

Facilities will have COVID-19 risk screening, and adhere to Alert Level 1 public health measures. A record of where people have been are encouraged to be kept for contact tracing purposes, in particular where visitors are not routine (i.e. not direct family / regular visitors).

All planned and urgent respite care previously provided in aged residential care is available.

Home based support services, including personal cares (e.g. showering and feeding), and household management (e.g., cleaning) will operate as normal and will continue to adhere to infection prevention control measures.

Respite, Carer Support, and day services are all operating as normal under Alert Level 1.

Respite care and day services (and transport options to and from day services) will adhere to infection prevention control measures and will record peoples details to enable contact tracing purposes.

People shouldn’t be provided respite care in the community, take part in health promotion activities or be provided other community supports if they are unwell.

Day services will continue to provide remote support for those that require it.

You can find more information about disability support services that are available under Alert Level 1 at COVID-19: Information for disabled people and their family and whānau.

More information on Alert Level 1

See the uniteforrecovery.govt.nz Alert Level 1 information.

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