Covid-19 Delta outbreak: Auckland woman gets apology from Ministry of Health after ‘appalling’ home-isolation experience

A young Auckland woman with Covid-19 has forced an apology from the Ministry of Health after what she describes as an “appalling” and “confusing” experience in self-isolation since contracting the deadly virus more than a week ago.

That includes being told by a ministry service provider on the night she was confirmed as being infected with Covid-19 that her assessment couldn’t be completed as per regulations because the person’s “knock-off time was nearing”.

The Ministry of Health yesterday confirmed an apology had been issued to the woman after theHerald had gone to it with the woman’s complaints.

It said a review showed one call, in particular, didn’t meet “professional standard”, and that improvements would be made to the phone-call monitoring of those isolating at home,including extra training.

The double-vaccinated woman, who is aged in her 30s and wishes to remain anonymous, tested positive for Delta onDecember 8.

For the past eight days, she has chronicled her dealings with health teams who deal solely with Covid patients, saying she was so concerned by what she described as the poor level of communication, she was now seeking more information direct from her GP.

“The level of customer service has been quite frankly appalling, confusing and distressing for someone in isolation on their own and experiencing Covid-19 symptoms,”she said.
“The experience …has been appalling on all fronts; both in terms of the organisation of the staff and the information sharingbetween teams.”

Home isolation for Covid-19 patients was introduced in October. Previously, the majority of virus sufferers were placed in hotels turned into quarantine centres, including the Jet Park Hotel near Auckland Airport. Last month, the health and disability commissioner demanded answers on issues around clinical care for people self-isolating, following three deaths of Covid-positive people who were isolating at home and reports of requests for assistance going unanswered.

Criteria for isolating at home are based on a public health risk assessment which takes into account factors such as the ability to isolate safely away from others, phone and internet access,the availability of own transport to safely access a testing centre, and having the supplies to isolate at home safely.

Health bosses said at the time of the policy change that under the home isolation model, people who test positive could isolate at home when they had been assessed as safe to do so by a Medical Officer of Health, and their home situation had been deemed appropriate.

A “tele-health” check-in via Healthline checks on those indicators.

But the Auckland woman said the communication levels she had received were poor. That included a nurse telling her on the day she found out she was positive that the nurse couldn’t complete a full assessment of her as the staffer was about to finish their shift.

On other days, when she was meant to receive one check-up phone call, she instead received multiple calls within hours, with the successive callers having no knowledge she had been called earlier in the day.

Last Friday she received phone calls from three different nurses.

Then she missed another call from Healthline which she did not respond to as she was “so frustrated with the number of calls”.

The woman also raised concerns about the Covid Healthline in terms of communication by staff and knowledge of information.

She said while some team members had “been great, others have been pretty abrasive and abrupt”.

The woman claims she had not been able to get an answer on a question about the period of time she could have been infectious, or what constitutes being considered “symptom-free”.

“It seems like all of the people in the tele-health team don’t have an information sheet on simple questions that you are bound to be asked by people in isolation,” she said.

Despite still suffering “extreme fatigue, brain fog” and a “tightness in my chest”, a “simple questionnaire” she had completed considered her “symptom-free”.

She did not think that was accurate and then sought independent advice from her GP.
Yesterday, a supervisor from the Covid Healthline confirmed to her that she could end her home isolation as she was symptom-free.

In a statement to the Herald, the ministry confirmed it had “apologised for any distress her interactions with the service may have caused”.

The apology had been made by a “provider contracted to the Ministry of Health” for a “lapse in the services provided” to the woman.

“A review of calls … determined that while most interactions were of a professional standard, one of the calls to [the woman] did not meet this standard.

“Because of the time of day, the full call could not be completed at the time, meaning it was not completed until later the following day.

“In addition, callers did not adequately review the previous call notes before making subsequent calls, resulting in same information being repeatedly sought.”

In response, the ministry said “several improvements are being made to how the provider manages calls to Covid-19 cases, including additional staff training and more thorough handovers between shifts”.

Meanwhile, the woman said Covid-19 had impacted her health hugely, and she was thankful she was double-vaccinated and healthy when she contracted the virus.

“I wouldn’t wish Covid-19 on anyone.”

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