Student Health Braces for Omicron

National shortage of GPs leaves SHS without backup staff

Student Health Services are preparing for a community outbreak of Omicron by moving away from in-person appointments, warning that wait times may increase due to a lack of backup clinical staff. 


To minimise the risk of staff and patients contracting Covid-19, under the Red traffic light setting, Student Health will not offer walk-in services. Instead, all appointments must be booked in advance. According to Margaret Perley, the Head of Student Health Services, most appointments will occur via telehealth, although “in-person appointments will be available for those who need one”. 


Students with Covid-19 symptoms will largely be managed remotely, with clinicians deciding on a case-by-case basis whether an in-person appointment is required. Student Health will be referring most students to the Community Covid-19 Testing Centre on Malcolm Street (run by the WellSouth Primary Health Organisation) for testing, which Margaret says will free up remaining staff “to continue providing routine care and monitor students with Covid-19”. Student Health expects most students with Covid-19 will be able to isolate and recover at home/in their flats, with only those severely unwell expected to be transferred to hospital. 


Margaret expects that these measures, along with the fact that all non-exempt staff and students are fully vaccinated, should “reduce the impact of Omicron severity” and help Student Health “avoid delays for routine appointments if there is a community outbreak”. However, if any staff are required to isolate as cases or close contacts, this “will impact on waiting times as there are no backup staff available”. She blamed a “a general shortage of GPs in New Zealand… (which) means it is not possible to obtain extra clinical staff to help us at short notice.”


According to Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the Ministry of Health are currently planning for a “worst-case scenario” around the Omicron outbreak, where daily case numbers could be in their thousands in as soon as two weeks time.

Posted 11:32am Thursday 27th January 2022 by Denzel Chung.