Please enjoy our second newsletter dedicated to celebrating Canterbury’s health, education and research sectors. As I said in our first edition, Canterbury’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has been extraordinary, and immense efforts have been taken to protect our community. These further examples of collaborative responses to COVID-19 showcase Canterbury’s ability to collaborate and innovate, whilst demonstrating our unique values of compassion, resilience and a willingness to help. They are worthy examples of what makes the Canterbury health system special. I hope you will enjoy the read and share with friends and colleagues.
Chair Te Papa Hauora Advisory Council
The nationwide lock-down, home schooling, job losses and wholesale disruption to most aspects of our lives have presented huge challenges to our mental health and wellbeing. Te Papa Hauora partners have provided a range of practical tools and services to help Cantabrians get through.
Following the earthquakes, the Canterbury DHB established the ‘Allright’ mental health initiative with partners such as the Mental Health Foundation to provide access to support and advice via the Allright.org.nz website. It has expanded during the COVID-19 crisis to include a wealth of information and ideas for staying healthy in our bodies and minds, including a ‘wall of staycation ideas’ and information for managers to support staff wellbeing.
The ‘Sparklers’ initiative is an extension of Allright. It has tools to support and promote the wellbeing of young Cantabrians. During the COVID-19 crisis it is providing parents useful information for keeping their kids happy and healthy.
University of Canterbury academics, such as Associate Professor Laurie McLay pictured above with her son and pet, are also providing easily-accessible videos for parents and whānau. Watch Children’s sleep patterns during lockdown.
University experts also created a series of virtual talks called Te Hāpai Ō | UC Live Speaker Series, which focused on children’s physical, whanau, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
A testing station at Ngā Hau e Whā Marae is providing safe and easy access to a COVID-19 test, as well as a hot meal and wellbeing check.
The station in east Ōtautahi is the result of collaboration between He Waka Tapu, Whānau Ora Community Clinic, Nga Hau E Whā and supported by Pegasus Primary Health Services. It was established on 11 April and to date a total of more than 800 tests have been completed. It will remain open until at least the end of May.
Jackie Burrows, manahautu (chief executive) of He Waka Tapu, says the Ngā Hau e Whā Marae station has a point of difference as COVID symptoms are not required for people to be tested and people’s welfare is also checked. Whānau drive into the station and stay in their vehicle the whole time, making it safe and easy.
"This has been a major achievement for all services involved. We have been able to do something that is not what we usually do in our everyday mahi and it has been done very successfully. The feedback we have received from whānau who have gone through the testing station has been really positive and the kai and wellbeing checks have been described by some whānau as the icing on the cake. It has been wonderful to work alongside both Norm, Linda from Nga Hau E Whā and George Ngatai from the Whānau Ora Community Clinic to bring this COVID-19 testing station service to the eastside of Christchurch."
Pharmacies rapidly implemented measures such as perspex screens, limited visitor numbers and frequent cleaning to keep staff and clients safe from COVID-19. A collaboration between pharmacies, general practice and the Canterbury DHB also means more than 90 per cent of prescriptions have been issued ‘virtually’ since Alert Level 4 began – replacing the traditional and potentially-virus-carrying paper prescription.
The system was developed by a multi-disciplinary team including Canterbury DHB’s clinical pharmacologists and its Information Services Group, along with the Electronic Request Management System (ERMS) team based at Pegasus Health. When patients need a prescription, their GP or hospital specialist sends a virtual ‘request’ via ERMS to their local pharmacy. The pharmacy can check the virtual request against a customer’s ID and issue medication. By the end of April, more than 8000 of these virtual prescriptions had been issued by Canterbury GPs and the process had just become available to prescribers working in the hospital environment.
ERMS was developed in Canterbury in 2009 – one of the first electronic systems in the world to better connect primary with community and secondary care and the first such initiative to become South Island-wide in 2016.
Midwives in the community and at Canterbury DHB’s birthing services have worked hard to keep people safe during COVID-19 restrictions and provide a vital and expert connection for expectant mothers and their families.
Canterbury DHB director of midwifery Norma Campbell says since Alert Level 4 midwives have been provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear during home visits and births.
A Government-enforced change to hospital visiting policies meant new mothers were not allowed a post-natal support person. As a result, staff on Christchurch Women’s birthing wards or in birthing suites worked hard to help women connect with loved ones, and provide extra support during their stay.
The number of home births increased during the four weeks of Alert Level 4 lock-down and women were staying at birthing suites for a shorter time, she says. Midwives were reporting that although the lock-down was unsettling, new mothers had found some positives from being confined to a bubble with their newborns. “They are enjoying the lack of pressures to go out and about and simply stay home, feed and sleep.”
University of Canterbury engineer Don Clucas is among local experts applying technology and ingenuity to boost the health sector’s ability to fight COVID-19. The College of Engineering Associate Professor developed a process for 3D-printing, laser-cutting and assembling a full-face protective visor in less than a minute. He created the prototype with input from his medical student daughter Emma (pictured with Don and the face shield below) after being contacted by a Canterbury DHB surgeon who was keen to establish a guaranteed local supply of the personal protective equipment (PPE).
Clucas has put instructions for creating the visor online so those in countries without access to high-tech equipment can use it for free. Read a stuff.co.nz item on the innovation. Other UC engineers have collaborated with the health board, aged care sector and private business to develop heat sensors that can scan body temperature and detect COVID-19 carriers, potentially limiting its spread through the community. Read more about this development.
Our researchers join crucial COVID-19 projects
The Government-funded Health Research Council recently announced a lot of new COVID-19-related studies. Collaboration is at the heart of these projects, and many involve health researchers from the University of Otago’s Christchurch campus. They are involved in a study of the effectiveness of existing drugs lopinavir-ritonavir and hydroxychloroquine in people hospitalised by COVID-19. University of Otago, Christchurch scientists are also part of an effort to combine genetic information with data on human movement and location to develop a system to track near-real-time spread of COVID-19 through the population; as well as a study of the impact of COVID-19’s lock-down and isolation on people with mood disorders, and an analysis of the quality of messages about COVID-19 for parents of New Zealand children.
A group of University of Canterbury researchers from the schools of health and education are investigating how the lock-down has affected children and their entrance to school. Other UC researchers. led by Professor Philip Schluter, are part of a study gathering data across six countries on how communications strategies and the media shaped citizens response during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Thank you for taking the time to read about the inspiring work our partners are doing. If you would like to know more about Te Papa Hauora visit our website.