06 May 2020
WellSouth PHO and general practice teams in the Southern region are today celebrating a major milestone in the fight against COVID-19, having surpassed more than 10,000 tests completed in the community.
Approximately half of tests (10,401 as of 1pm today) are done in general practices and half in Community Based Assessment Centres (CBACs).
“This is remarkable achievement of which the whole community should be proud,” says WellSouth chairman, Dr Doug Hill. “Testing for the virus is fundamental to the battle against this pandemic and the Southern general practices and WellSouth have been at the frontline from the start.
“It’s been a massive undertaking but every time public health or the Ministry asked us to expand our testing, WellSouth and general practice have stepped up and done the job.”
Growth of testing in the South
Testing in the community began on 18 March when WellSouth PHO established and staffed a temporary CBAC at Forsyth Barr Stadium, testing 150 close contacts of an initial COVID case in the region.
CBACs were then set up in Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown at short notice and a centralized 0800 VIRUS19 call centre was established at WellSouth offices, streamlining access to COVID-19 testing - whether at general practice or CBACs.
A ‘pop-up’ CBAC at a Queenstown supermarket on 16 April, where more than 350 asymptomatic people were tested in one day, was the start of outreach and surveillance testing in New Zealand. It was an important step forward in the COVID-19 fight intended to identify undetected disease in the community, particularly among groups that may not have been tested – such as Maori and Pacifica Island communities, international workers.
Surveillance and outreach testing undertaken by WellSouth and general practice to date includes:
- 16 April - Pak’nSave, Queenstown – 353 tested
- 24-27April – Queenstown six backpackers accommodations (247 guests/ staff)
- 29 April - Puketeraki Marae Karitane – 37 tested
- 1 May - Alliance Group, Lorneville – 346 tested
- 4 May - Te Rau Aroha Marae, Bluff – 120 tested
- 5 May - Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group – 35 tested
- 5 May - Alliance Group, Pukeuri – 339 tested
- 6 May - Murihiku Marae, Invercargill
- 7 May – Ōtākou Marae, Dunedin – led by Te Kāika
General practices, meanwhile, have helped to make COVID-19 testing even more accessible and a dozen practices across the region have stepped up to be designated practices, testing both their own enrolled patients and those who do not have a GP.
“The work WellSouth staff and general practice teams have done is just stunning and we’re not done yet. We will continue to do what needs to be done to make testing and care available where and when it is required,” says WellSouth CEO, Andrew Swanson-Dobbs.
“WellSouth and general practice have proven their commitment to supporting and caring for their patients and others in the community at this time. Kudos to the teams and to the people of Southland and Otago who are doing their part to help us to be safe.”