21 Jun 2009

Christchurch Hospital to isolate swine flu sufferers

3:58 pm on 21 June 2009

Christchurch Hospital will isolate swine flu sufferers in single rooms off a general medical ward if they need hospitalisation.

Suspected cases will first be assessed at the region's flu assessment centre, which opened on Saturday in a converted car factory in the city centre.

The Canterbury District Health Board says staff at Christchurch Hospital will use isolation techniques and protective equipment when dealing with those who have the virus.

A spokesperson for the board, Mark Leggett, says about eight beds off the general ward are available for swine flu sufferers.

The flu centre expects to treat several hundred people a day in the coming weeks.

A spokesperson for the clinic says a steady stream of people arrived at the central city centre on Saturday, where they were treated by volunteer nurses and doctors.

The DHB says at least three more centres are expected to be needed in the region as the virus spreads.

Officially confirmed cases of swine flu stand at 258 nationwide with 108 cases in Wellington and 67 in Canterbury.

Dr Phil Schroeder of the Canterbury Primary Pandemic Group says only people who have been assessed over the phone as needing treatment are offered appointments and medication at the centre.

"People are coming in feeling quite fatigued, potentially a little dehydrated, headachey, sore - not too happy about life. It really is something which most people would get over without coming to clinics at all."

Dr Schroeder says another three flu centres are expected to open in the Canterbury region.

Wellington Hospital moves to protect patients

Wellington Hospital says it will turn away visitors with flu-like symptoms in order to protect vulnerable patients from swine flu.

Capital and Coast District Health Board says patients in its cancer, intensive care and children's wards are especially at risk. It says catching the flu could delay their recovery, or even endanger their lives.

A 30-year-old woman remained in a critical condition in Wellington Hospital on Saturday as a result of swine flu. A child and another adult are in the same hospital with swine flu and two nurses there have the virus.

Helpline services expanded

Health authorities Canterbury and Wellington are boosting helpline services for people seeking advice about swine flu.

Authorities on Friday announced they had given up trying to contain the spread of swine flu and are focusing now on managing it, meaning people will be encouraged to deal with their symptoms at home unless they are severe.

People in Canterbury are able to call a free helpline (0800 373 0370) from Saturday, while Wellington's Regional Public Health authority has increased the number of lines on its service (0800 120 064) from four to seven.

Those in Canterbury needing treatment or assessment will be referred to the flu centre that opened in Christchurch on Friday.