SUPPORTING CLIENTS UNDER THE COVID-19 TRAFFIC LIGHT SYSTEM: AN OPERATIONAL UPDATE
From early December 2021, New Zealand has entered its next phase of battling COVID-19, through the new “traffic light system”. Three colours (red, orange, and green) will symbolise the different restriction levels. Essentially, the foundation of the traffic light scheme is that vaccinated people will have more freedoms - those that are vaccinated will have greater access to services and movement.
While the traffic light settings may require changes to our normal way of working, it does not mean our work at the Stroke Foundation has stopped. Our dedicated teams continue to provide services, supporting the people who need us most, especially at this time of uncertainty. Please be assured that the health and wellbeing of the individuals and whānau we work with, and our staff, are always our top priority, and we are now well versed in adapting our services to ensure that those who need us can easily access support.
Red will be used when there is an outbreak, and the health system is facing an "unsustainable number of hospitalisations". The orange level will indicate a limited outbreak, but there is an "increasing" risk to at-risk populations. Green will effectively mean no public health measures for the vaccinated and is for limited community transmission. At times, these levels may be different around the country. Each setting is outlined in more detail below.
Our services in Red Light Settings
• In-home visits
Our Stroke Recovery Services teams - Community Stroke Advisors and Return to Work Advisors, will not be making home visits unless essential and only if everyone in the household has been fully vaccinated. Instead of face-to-face visits, we are connecting by telephone and online, to support our clients through their recovery. In doing this we are taking all necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of our vulnerable clients, as well as that of our community support teams.
• Hospital visits
Hospital visits by staff are permitted if allowed by DHB policy, and public health rules are followed. However, we will limit these where possible to reduce the exposure of our people to high-risk locations.
• Stroke Clubs
Our staff will not attend Stroke Clubs during the Red Light setting. Each Stroke Club has the autonomy to decide to meet and whether a vaccination certificate is required for meeting attendees. We have provided advice to Stroke clubs which can be found here - https://www.stroke.org.nz/stroke-clubs
• Stroke Groups facilitated by Stroke Foundation staff
All Stroke Groups facilitated by SFNZ staff, (including coffee groups, seminars, and workshops) are encouraged to take place remotely, rather than in person.
• Blood Pressure Check Vans
We have suspended our free community outreach Blood Pressure Checks to protect the health of our staff and the general public and will resume these when community transmission of Omicron has declined.
Our services in Orange Light Settings
For areas under Orange Light settings, our recovery services team can only conduct in-person visits if there are no other means that can be used appropriately (such as telephone or video). Due to the vulnerable nature of our clients and an abundance of caution, we will only be able to conduct an in-person home visit when everyone who is in that household has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Our team will be wearing face masks and maintaining a two-metre distance when meeting clients in person. If a client is due to be visited but is displaying COVID-19 symptoms, then it is important we know, so we can look at different ways to provide the support needed. Please be assured we are taking all steps necessary to ensure the health and safety of our clients and our team looking after them.
Our services in Green Light Settings
For areas under Green Light settings, our recovery services team can conduct in-person visits for all clients. However, our team will normally be wearing face masks and maintaining a two-metre distance when meeting clients in person. If a client is due to be visited but is displaying COVID-19 symptoms, then it is important we know, so we can look at different ways to provide the support needed.
For your reference, the Government protection framework summary can be found here.
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses which cause illnesses such as the common cold. Covid-19 is a new type of coronavirus disease, which has undergone genetic mutations over time and one of these variants, the Delta variant, is now becoming the dominant variant globally.
The Delta variant can cause a more severe illness and people infected with this variant are at higher risk of needing hospitalisation. The chance of passing on the Delta variant to others is very high.1
I’m a stroke survivor. What does coronavirus mean for me?
Stroke survivors have been telling us that they are worried about the coronavirus.
Many people who have had a stroke belong to an at-risk group, such as older people and those with health conditions like heart disease or respiratory disease, so we understand that it’s a real concern for many.
How can I reduce my risk?
To immediately help reduce your risk, please follow the steps below.
· Physical distancing of 2m where possible
· Wear a face covering on public transport, in supermarkets and healthcare facilities. It is encouraged to also wear a face covering when leaving your home.
· Keep indoor rooms well ventilated (eg, by opening windows and doors) where possible
· If you feel unwell, stay home
· If you show any symptoms, call Healthline and get a COVID-19 test
· Keep a record of where you’ve been or scan in wherever you go using the COVID Tracer app and turn Bluetooth on your phone so you can be contacted if you have been near a case.
· Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and dry them thoroughly:
o before eating or handling food
o after using the toilet
o after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children’s noses
o after caring for sick people
· Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes
· Avoid contact with people who may be an increased risk to you (e.g. children who have the flu)
· Avoid face-to-face contact with people who have flu-like symptoms
· Ask people to use a tissue and cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and to wash their hands afterwards.
The Stroke Foundation encourages all people to be vaccinated to increase their protection against COVID-19. We recommend getting a health professional’s advice to assess your individual situation.
We want to ensure that you are armed with the right tools so that you can manage your health at this difficult time. If you or your family member has had a stroke and have a carer, you have the right to ask questions about their hygiene process, ensuring that they have washed their hands and have access to a face mask and latex gloves if this makes you feel more comfortable.
If you’re concerned about asking these questions, feel free to say, “the Stroke Foundation has asked me to check…” as we want to help you receive the best possible care.
Look after your general health
Keep any medical appointments for your health conditions unless you have symptoms of COVID-19.
Getting your usual checks will make sure you are getting the treatment you need and keep taking any medication you are prescribed.
You can also help stay fit and well by eating a healthy, balanced diet and being as active as possible.
Where can I find more information?
We are continuing to follow advice from the Ministry of Health websites which are updated daily. You can follow these too:
Making a referral
DHB professionals who would like to make a referral to our Community Stroke Advisor service can easily do so at this time. People will continue to have strokes and our critical services are continuing to operate. Simply fill out the referral form and send it back to us, or fill in the online form here.