Health workers warn ministers of mounting workload

9:46 am on 4 March 2011

Doctors, nurses and other health professionals have told the Government that psychological issues will mount in coming weeks, in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.

They say they have got their work cut out for months.

The concerns were laid out during a visit by Health Minister Tony Ryall and Associate Health Minister Jonathan Coleman on Wednesday.

Regional public health authorities told the ministers the healing process cannot begin until basic things like power, water and sewerage are operating.

Christchurch Hospital staff talked about the teamwork involved in evacuating seriously ill patients from some damaged buildings and about the need to help staff continue coping in the months ahead.

A family doctor in Aranui said he is having to fax prescriptions to patients who are now spread throughout the country and in Australia.

The surgeon in charge of an Australian field hospital in the east of the city, Dr Mark Little, says the situation in the city is like something he might encounter in a developing country.

Dr Little says diarrhoea and mental health issues will be major problems in the days ahead.

The field hospital, which has been operating at Coles Stadium, will stop clinical treatment on Friday, but community health groups will still operate there.

The ministers say they are acting on the concerns.