An apple a day keeps the doctor away

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30/26-30 Constable Road, Waiuku

COVID-19 – Open letter from Dr Lecias

An Open Letter to New Zealanders:

I want to share my family’s experience with Covid in the Philippines.  By sharing my story, I hope those of you who have second thoughts, doubts or hesitations about getting the vaccine may think about getting the jab sooner rather than later.

Since the pandemic started, part of my work as a General Practitioner (GP) in the frontline was treating and swabbing patients with respiratory or viral illnesses in the “red zone” of Waiuku Health Centre.   Every time I put on my PPE, I would wish there was something in the medicine cabinet that I could take to protect me, my family, my healthcare team, and my friends from getting Covid.

The vaccine became available for us, frontliners, in March of this year. I also experienced the hesitancy of getting the vaccine. Initially, I had the same questions you may also have in your mind right now. Will I have bad side effects? Will I die? What will be the effects of the vaccine in the long term? However, I also wondered: If the vaccine is there to help us protect ourselves – why wouldn’t I take it?  So, after weighing up the benefits vs. risks and considering the available evidence, I then decided to get vaccinated.

Since then, I have been watching the numbers in other countries, to find out how much vaccination can protect us. Although data from other countries showed the trend that vaccination protects people from developing severe Covid, the numbers may not necessarily mean anything at a personal level. Knowing the numbers does not necessarily motivate some of us to get vaccinated urgently. Until Covid hits home, only then you start to see for yourself who survives and who doesn’t. This is why I would like to share my family’s experience with you.

Recently my family (father, mother, and two nephews who live with them) have contracted Covid. My father, 75 yo, has medical comorbidities, including hypertension and atrial fibrillation. He developed a cough, fever, and shortness of breath. My sister brought him to a public hospital where he waited overnight for his Covid test results in a holding area in a tent outside the hospital building. The next day, 31- August, we were fortunate to find a private hospital for him. My father needed oxygen supplementation. He improved and was discharged 14 days later.

Two days after my father was admitted to the hospital, my mother, who was symptomatic and tested positive for Covid, was also put on a waiting list. We had to purchase a pulse oximeter and oxygen tank to support her breathing at home as her Oxygen saturation (O2sat) was dropping. When space became available, she was finally admitted to the hospital with her O2sat already at around 84%. My mother was 74 yo, and was taking oral medications for hypertension and diabetes. She received all the treatment for Covid, similar to what would be given here in NZ for moderate-severe Covid.  Despite the available treatment, she continued to deteriorate over the next few days requiring intubation and ICU admission. She eventually passed away on 14 September.

My nephews:  27 yo with scoliosis and mental health condition, and 23 yo with history of asthma, were both unvaccinated. The local government advised them to quarantine at home with the rest of the family.  They were managed at home by their mother, my sister, who had a first dose of the Sinovac vaccine. They both needed oxygen supplementation at home as their O2sat also fell below 95%, with one of them going as low as 89%.

The remaining four members in the household developed mild symptoms (presumed to be Covid): two of them (17 yo/male and 24 yo/male) were unvaccinated. The other two (41 yo/male and 20yo/female) were vaccinated with a first dose of Sinovac.

What were the outcomes after two weeks? My father, who had a dose of the vaccine, survived moderate covid. My vaccinated sister remained asymptomatic. My vaccinated niece and 41yo extended family member also recovered from mild covid. While the four unvaccinated family members recovered, two needed home oxygen supplementation.

Unfortunately, in the case of my mother, Covid caught up with her before she could get her vaccination and she didn’t survive.  My mother was vaccine-hesitant in the beginning because she feared that she would get adverse effects. When she finally decided to go for her vaccination, it did not happen because the centre ran out of vaccines. Sadly, she contracted Covid before her next appointment.

After we lost our mother, a couple of questions that continue to play in my mind are: Had she been vaccinated, would it have given her a fighting chance to survive? Would it be a different scenario if she was here in New Zealand? Not only do we have vaccines available now; we also have the luxury of time to get vaccinated while our Covid cases are still low.

An Auntie, 68yo, has Myasthenia Gravis but had a dose of Moderna vaccine. She nursed both my sick parents at the hospital but didn’t get Covid. Another Auntie, 63yo who has diabetes and who had completed Sinovac also didn’t get Covid after meeting with a symptomatic, unvaccinated dear friend whose husband unfortunately also died from Covid.

I know of friends here in Auckland whose family members in the Philippines were also recently affected by Covid.  A friend’s mum who is 72 yo with Rheumatoid Arthritis, completed two doses of Astra Zeneca, is now recovering from Covid.  On the other hand, another friend’s father, 83 yo passed away from Covid on 04 Oct. He was unvaccinated.

Now I don’t need to look far away to see what’s happening in other countries. Unfortunately, in my family’s and friends’ cases, the unvaccinated vulnerable family members were the ones we’ve lost.  Our family members who had at least one dose, regardless of the vaccine, were protected or had better outcomes after contracting Covid.

Unknown to many of you, while NZ was in lockdown since mid-August, some of our Filipino community members here in NZ have been mourning the loss of loved ones back in the Philippines due to Covid.  It is hard and painful, and I wouldn’t wish this to happen to you and your families here in NZ.

Give yourselves and your whanau a fighting chance. Vaccines are within our reach.  Give our healthcare system a fighting chance to deal with Covid by getting as many eligible family members vaccinated.

I am writing this in honor of my beloved mother, the late Lilia Gamboa.

Dr. Lira Lecias

GP, Waiuku Health Centre, Auckland

Covid-19 – News 27th August 2021

With more community cases being announced in Auckland, the government have made the expected decision of us remaining in Level 4 until at least Tuesday, and most likely for another two weeks.

We know this is very stressful for many people but hopefully with community support we can keep safe and healthy.  If you are struggling for food, please contact Waiuku Family Support.  St John’s Waiuku may also be able to assist.  If anyone has other suggestions, please would you link to them in the comments?

For the medical centre, as usual, to support us in keeping both staff and the community safe, please DO NOT turn up at the medical centre to make an appointment or pick up forms, or without contacting us beforehand.  You can telephone reception on 09 235 9102 or email reception@waiukumedical.co.nz.

If you have a booked appointment within the next week at the Medical Centre, you can expect to have a phone appointment at the booked time.

If you feel you really need to be seen face-to-face, please telephone in advance on 09 235 9102. You will be put through to a nurse who will assess your safety to come in.   If you have NO COVID symptoms (respiratory, cold or flu symptoms) the nurse may determine that you can come to the Medical Centre where you will be triaged at the front door.

PLEASE: anyone who comes to the medical centre MUST wear a mask if at all possible.  This is for vaccinations, covid testing and in-person appointments etc.

Vaccinations are going well in the tent area next to the medical centre.  If you would like to book a Covid vaccination (for registered or non-registered patients), you can do this by:

  1. emailing covidvax@waiukumedical.co.nz, or ring 09 235 9102 (after 1 pm) and request to be contacted to make a booking.  We check this e-mail regularly, and we will contact you
  2. Book my vaccine https://bookmyvaccine.covid19.health.nz/ (Use Waiuku as your location). If you have trouble booking through the link above, you can call 0800 282 926

PLEASE – use the scanning app or sign in everywhere to make it easier for Covid tracers. If you don’t have the app be sure to sign in on handwritten forms. Remember, the Delta variant is twice as transmissible as the variant we were dealing with previously, so we all need to stay home if possible, wash our hands frequently, wear a mask and social distance.

By the way, the photo is of the entrance to the vaccination area.  Taken yesterday when it was vaguely sunny!  We know people are allowed to exercise during Level 4, but whomever it is with “Rain Dancing” as part of their personal exercise programme, would you mind stopping?

Thank you all for your community spirit and understanding.  We really appreciate it!

Covid-19 – News 13th August 2021

As of today, we have done 7900 Vaccinations! We are happy that residents of West Franklin are able to access vaccination in their community. This will help a lot once the borders are open. It simply protects you, your whanau, and the wider community from being infected or getting seriously ill or death from Covid-19.
Although there is a high uptake of vaccination, there are still many people hesitant to have the vaccine.  We would encourage anyone who has doubts to talk to one of our staff or their doctors or send an e-mail with the questions for more information.  The Pfizer vaccine is very effective at preventing Covid-19 infection, and even more effective at preventing serious covid related illness, ICU admission or death.  Most important of all, it is safe!

Then the new rollout scheme as per Friday the 13th of August, although the government has set the rollout per age brackets, if you are 16 to 49 years of age and need vaccination, please contact us.  In many cases we have enough slots to book you for vaccination. Registered or non-registered patients are welcome.

Important to know is that there is now a gap of at least 6 weeks between the first and the second vaccinations. The reason behind this is to ensure most New Zealanders are at least partly vaccinated.  You can still request to have the second vaccination early (3-6 weeks) in some circumstances.

How to book? For registered or non-registered patients
1 Book my vaccine https://bookmyvaccine.covid19.health.nz/ (Use Waiuku as your location)
2 If you have trouble booking through the link above, you can approach our practice for assistance (after 1 pm) and the receptionist will help you further, or you can also call 0800-282926
3 You can e-mail us at covidvax@waiukumedical.co.nz, and request to be contacted to make a booking (irrespective of whether you are a registered patient or not). We check this e-mail regularly, and we will contact you.

Covid-19 – News 23rd July 2021

We began Covid19 vaccination on the 25th of May and to date we have given over 5500 vaccinations. We are very proud of our team for ensuring a smooth, well organised operation. The whole team is led by our nurses, and they are doing an amazing job. We are also very grateful to our team of volunteers who with great community spirit are assisting with the running of the programme.

As from the 28th of July, people eligible for a covid vaccination, belonging to group 4, can make an appointment. The first band is people aged 60 years and over. The next band is people aged 55 years and over and bookings for this band will open on the 11th of August.

The Waiuku Health Centre will give in first instance priority to the 55+ group, and everyone who is vulnerable e.g., has an underlying health condition or living with a vulnerable family member. If you’re not sure just send a request via e-mail to covidvax@waiukumedical.co.nz

Depending on vaccine supply and progress with other age groups, invitations will open up to people over 45 years from September, October for people 35 plus, with everyone else being eligible after October.
We would like to emphasise to everyone with an underlying health condition, not to wait until their age band is invited; you can make a booking any time from now on.

How to book?

  1. The National Booking System ( NBS) will have us on the list from 28/7 onwards, you will be invited by age band
  2. If you have trouble booking trough that system you can call the practice for assistance (after 1pm) and the receptionist will help you further, otherwise you can also call 0800-282926
  3. You can e-mail us on covidvax@waiukumedical.co.nz and request to be contacted to make a booking (irrespective whether you are a registered patient or not). This email is checked daily and we will contact you.

Covid-19 – News 4th June 2021

We have now been vaccinating for two weeks and so far, our roll out process is going well.

Currently we are at 90 vaccinations a day and from the 16th of June we will extend to hopefully vaccinate 120 per day.

The good news is that because it is going so well, we will have the capacity to loosen some criteria for people to get vaccinated.

We have made the following adjustments:

The roll out process so far has not caused great disruption or waiting times. We want to thank all patients waiting for vaccination for their patience.

Covid-19 – Vaccination Update

We are proud to be able to announce that from the 26th of May 2021 we will be starting to give Covid-19 vaccinations. After 8 weeks of preparation, we will roll out the programme according to the Ministry of Health guidelines with slight adjustments due to our rural location and vaccination capacity.  

As you are aware we will be a small site compared to the big vaccination centres in Auckland, so we have made the following adjustments:

  1. We will start with patients aged over 75 years and over 55 years of age for Maori and Pacific patients.
  2. Covid vaccine recipients will initially be invited from our patient data base. If you are not our registered patient, please send your vaccination request by email to covidvax@waiukumedical.co.nz with your name, contact details and age.
  3. We will not be able to accept any walk-ins.

We have made this choice as the national booking system is not yet available, and we are working hard to ensure you have a smooth vaccination experience at our site. 

We hope, in a few weeks, to be able to increase our capacity to vaccinate 120 people a day for 6 days a week. We ask for your patience, as we face the challenges with this unprecedented programme.

We are lucky that currently we do not have community Covid cases and while needing to remain vigilant, we are confident that we can responsibly roll out the programme in an orderly fashion to those eligible.

We are grateful for your patience over the past year. Please check in to this site   as we will be posting regular updates.

The Covid Team of WHC.

Covid-19 Update – Testing Protocols

At the moment – as we have mentioned previously – we are asking anyone who has cold and flu symptoms to NOT enter the medical centre. Instead, we request that they wait in their car and contact reception on 09 235 9102 for advice on what to do.

Alternatively, they can telephone 027 381 6926. (Please note, this mobile number is *only* for people who need to be assessed for cold & flu symptoms, or otherwise require a Covid-19 swab. Please don’t ring this mobile number for general enquiries.)

As many of you may know or have seen, we are evaluating those patients and conducting our Covid-19 testing outside and to the rear of the Waiuku Health Plus building, where the staff on duty wear full PPE.

The reason for this is that we are trying to safeguard the health of everyone inside the building, including our staff and other patients.

If – in the future – we happen to have a patient inside the building who then tests positive for Covid-19, we would have to shut the building for 48 hours in order to do a deep clean. Additionally, some of our staff and patients who potentially came into contact with that person would need to go into isolation for 14 days just in case. This exact scenario has happened at a medical centre in Auckland, and we are attempting to prevent it from happening here.

Every day we are working to improve our efficiency and teamwork. Some people seen in the car queue have complex conditions or more severe symptoms and require more careful assessment which can take time. Therefore, there can be unexpected longer waits.

It’s perfectly natural that many people are feeling stressed and uncertain at the moment. However, despite this, we do hope that our staff – both inside and outside the building – are treated with Respect.

Covid-19 Update – Level 3 (Aug20)

As many of you may know, but some of you may not, the government has announced this evening that there are now four cases of Covid-19 in one household in South Auckland. These are people who had not arrived from overseas, and their source of infection is unknown.

Therefore, as at 12 noon tomorrow (Wednesday 12 August), Auckland is at Level 3 lock down restrictions until at least midnight on Friday. As we are part of the supercity, that includes us.

We will update you as soon as possible tomorrow as to what this means for appointments over the next few days. But in the meantime, please DO NOT come to the medical centre for non-essential visits.

You can help keep yourself and others safe by doing the basics well, especially if you have to be out in the community, such as at the supermarket:

Hand hygiene – washing your hands frequently

Wearing a face mask

Maintaining social distancing

If you must go anywhere, use the COVID-19 tracking app (details here: https://tracing.covid19.govt.nz/ )

Stay at home if you are unwell

If you have cold or flu symptoms, DO NOT enter the medical centre. You can contact reception on 09 235 9102 and they will advise you about assessment and testing options.

We know this is stressful and very disruptive for all of us.

However, remember you are part of New Zealand’s team of 5 million. We have done this before and we can do this again!

Covid-19 Update – Level 1

Way to go, Waiuku and the rest of New Zealand’s team of 5 million! Welcome to Level 1! 😀 I’m sure many of you are feeling the same sense of relief as we are, as the physical distancing barriers are coming down. However, remember we still have to remain vigilant and keep track of where we have been. 🧡

💙 Firstly, we would like to thank our wonderful staff who have gone above and beyond in dealing with the ongoing changes over the past couple of months. We appreciate you all and are thankful to have you all in our team.

💙 Secondly, thank you also to our colleagues at Unichem Waiuku Pharmacy and Unichem Waiuku Medical Pharmacy for all their hard work as well. They have done so well with the extra demands of e-prescriptions and monthly dispensing.

💙 And, of course, we need to thank you all, for your patience and understanding as we came to grips with all the different processes we needed to put into place.

It has been a learning time for us all. As a business we discovered that our phone system was not up to scratch and that is being revamped. ☎️ We also discovered that phone and video consultations can work under many circumstances, and we will be encouraging the ongoing use of these formats for many patient needs.

I think all of us have discovered just how effective careful and repetitive hand washing can be at staving off bugs. We really recommend that this becomes a long term habit, so we can try to hold off the winter cold and flu that generally plague us at this time of year. 🤧😷🤒

We will be updating you about practice hours, how to use the triage system, flu vaccinations and all that sort of thing. So keep checking back!

Finally, one major point: although we are mostly going back to normal business, we are going to continue to ask that those who have cold or flu symptoms NOT enter the medical centre. Please telephone reception on 09 235 9102 and ask to speak with the triage nurse. These patients are still being seen in a separate isolation area.

Thanks everyone!