Health care during COVID-19

You can still get health care in Aotearoa New Zealand at any alert level during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key points about health care during COVID-19

  1. Healthcare services in New Zealand are still available at all alert levels, but they operate differently at each alert level. 
  2. This is to help protect you, your whānau and your community against COVID-19.
  3. Your healthcare team will let you know if there are any changes to any of your appointments. 
  4. If you are concerned about any aspect of your health, call your GP or Healthline on 0800 611 116.
  5. If you need urgent medical assistance for severe symptoms or you have a serious injury, call the emergency number 111 or go straight to hospital. 

How to access healthcare in Alert Levels 3 and  4

Health and medical facilities will remain open at Alert Levels 3 and 4.

You can still get medical help if you need it. This includes healthcare services, such as Healthline, GPs, cancer services, disability and aged support services.

However, if you need to see your GP, nurse or other medical professional you MUST phone first.

In Alert Levels 3 and 4, most consultations will happen over the phone or by videoconference to stop any risk of COVID-19 spreading by person-to-person contact.

If a face-to-face meeting is required, your doctor or other medical professional will organise this with you.

Please only call Healthline if you or someone you know feels unwell or you need medical advice, rather than general questions about COVID-19. It's important Healthline is able to answer calls from those who need medical advice. The more people who call asking for general information, the fewer people who need medical advice can get through.

If you cannot get through and are severely unwell, for example having trouble breathing, contact emergency services (call 111).

General practice (GP clinic)

GP clinics are still open during all alert levels. This means you can still get the medical advice you need. However, they are working differently at different alert levels to try and reduce the spread of COVID-19. This means your GP may consult with you via telehealth such as text, email, phone or video call, but you will also be able to see your GP safely in person if needed.

You won't be bothering your GP during this time with your health issues – they are still there for you even if your health needs are not related to COVID-19. 

Read more about COVID-19 – GPs are still open for business.  

Your local pharmacy (chemist)

Your community pharmacy does more than just dispense medicines. Community pharmacies offer a range of services to keep you and your family well, including flu vaccinations.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, community pharmacies are open at all alert levels but may be operating differently. They may limit the number of people going into the pharmacy at any one time or there may be barriers or screens between you and your pharmacist when collecting medicines.

Some pharmacists may also provide advice about your medicines to you via phone. These measures are important to protect you and your whānau against COVID-19. 

Read more about your pharmacy and COVID-19

Hospitals

Hospitals are open as usual at all alert levels. However, they operate differently under different alert levels. For example, if you have an elective surgery planned, your surgery may be delayed under Alert Levels 3 a 4 but resumed under Alert Level 1.

Your outpatient appointments may also be done via telehealth such as phone, video call or other technology, if suitable and not urgent. Your healthcare team will let you know if there are any changes to any of your hospital appointments. Changes will depend on the alert levels and how urgent your appointment is.

If you need to visit your family/whānau members or friends in the hospital, there are also extra precautions that you need to take under different alert levels. This includes staying at home and not visitinng if you are sick or following social distancing rules when visiting. This is important to help keep other patients, healthcare workers and visitors safe.

You can find out about any changes and extra precautions from your local DHB's website. 

Allied health services

Allied health services such as physiotherapy, podiatry and optometry are open under all alert levels, but they operate differently depending on the alert level. Your physiotherapist may consult with you by telehealth such as phone or video call and if needed, they may be able to see you in person safely.

Before you visit these services, they may also call you or ask you some questions at the reception to screen your risk of COVID-19, to help protect other patients, healthcare workers and your community against COVID-19. 

Dental clinics and services

You can visit your dentist if you require dental care during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they may operate differently under different alert levels. If you are unsure whether you are able to visit your dentist, call them to get advice or visit their website to find out more. 

Midwives

Midwives are working under all alert levels, but they may also operate differently, eg, some may offer telehealth consultations via phone, text or video call, depending on the alert level and the urgency of your appointment.

Call your midwife to find out whether you are able to meet them in person, or for support and advice during pregnancy and after birth. 

Well Child Tamariki Ora services

Health visits for children are also happening during the pandemic, but operate differently under different alert levels. Some urgent appointments are face-to-face, whereas some non-urgent appointments are done over the phone or online. If you are unsure, call your Well Child provider or your GP to find out whether you are able to bring your child to these appointments.

Call Plunketline if you are concerned about your child or baby's health and wellbeing on 0800 933 922 and speak to a Plunket nurse. Plunketline runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Cancer screening services

Cancer screening services such as cervical screening, breast screening and bowel screening are operating at all alert levels. However, like other healthcare services, they operate differently depending on the alert level.

It is recommended that people over 70, or with pre-existing medical conditions call their GP, nurse or healthcare team to find out whether it's safe to attend appointments. 

Find out more on the Time to Screen website. 

Vaccinations

Vaccination is one of the best ways to protect yourself, your tamariki and your whānau. It is still a priority and safe during all COVID-19 alert levels, especially for new babies. Protect your whānau – vaccinate on time.  

Call your doctor or nurse ahead of time, so they can explain how they will keep you and your whānau safe while giving you a vaccine. All healthcare services have procedures in place to make vaccinating safe, such as:

  • a special day or time set aside for vaccinations
  • appointments spaced out so there’s no overlap between patients
  • appointment rooms cleaned thoroughly between patients
  • a separate area set aside for vaccinations.

Read more about COVID-19 and vaccinations. 

Community testing centres

Community testing centres are places to get tested for COVID-19. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 first about getting a test.

If you need to get tested, find your local testing facility or a community testing centre on the 
Healthpoint websiteYou can also find further information about testing stations in Auckland on the Auckland Regional Public Health Service website. In some places, COVID-19 tests are also being carried out by your GP. 

Read more about community testing centres

How do I prepare for a virtual doctor appointment?

Telehealth, virtual healthcare and e-consultations can provide you with health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, so you stay safe from the virus and keep others safe from it too. These digital technologies also make it easier for you to get the health care you need if it is difficult for you to travel to your doctor. Read more about telehealth and what you can expect from a telehealth consult

Watch the video below to find out how you can prepare for your video consult. 

(Health Navigator NZ, 2020)

How do I take care of my mental health during COVID-19 restrictions?

Some degree of anxiety is normal as we live through a COVID-19 pandemic. Feeling low or down about restrictions on your normal life is also a normal response. That means it’s more important than ever to know the key steps to managing your mental health.

There are 5 key strategies to help take care of your mental health while staying at home: 

  • look after your physical wellbeing
  • do the things that boost your mental health
  • avoid the things that harm your mental health
  • know when and how to get help if you need it
  • remember the reason we're all doing this together.

Read more about taking care of your mental health during COVID-19 restrictions

Learn more

How to access healthcare Unite against COVID-19, NZ
Mental wellbeing Unite against COVID-19, NZ
Covid-19 Education Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ

References

  1. Health and disability services at different alert levels Ministry of Health, NZ, 2021 
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.