By Katie Todd, RNZ
An Aucklander with Covid-19 who has confined herself to a caravan in her backyard feels scared for her health and abandoned by authorities.
About 2000 people with the virus are living at home and those supporting them say the public health system is struggling to keep up.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told RNZ she was was in her 16th day of symptoms, having tested positive a week ago.
She received a food parcel and had several phone calls from health authorities but said she was unable to get detailed health advice, pain relief medication or a mobile testing unit to check her family was okay.
In the meantime, her symptoms were worsening.
“I’m a bit scared … and I feel like there’s stuff stabbing my heart. Like, for the last two weeks I’ve been sweet, then two days ago I had this big dizzy spell. The last night – the stuff stabbing my heart. I don’t know what that is,” she said.
“I could be dying and no-one even realises.”
The woman, who is reluctant to get vaccinated, lives in West Auckland with her two sons and two parents.
When health authorities asked if she would like to go into MIQ, she declined because she did not know much about it and did not want to leave her family without support.
Now, her father was showing symptoms, and her own questions were piling up.
“I’ve been trying to get my parents tested – still – even today. Healthline keeps telling me they’re going to send a [testing] van up but no-one’s come,” she said.
“I’m just asking the same stuff and not getting answers – when will I end this isolation? Am I meant to be washing my bedding? Am I meant to just throw it out?”
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), each Covid-19 patient isolating at home should get a leaflet with advice and a pack with everything they need to monitor their health.
A Medical Officer of Health undertakes a public health risk assessment, looking at how safe the person is at home and what they might need.
The MOH said each day a health professional called to check in and ensure a person was well enough to isolate, was staying at home, and had the essentials they needed.
But groups supporting self-isolating patients have told RNZ there’s too many people staying home who should be in managed isolation, and it’s taking health authorities too long – in some cases days – to get in touch.
Minister of Health Andrew Little said he was disappointed to hear of people left without support, like a man with Covid-19 who spent almost a week in his car because he could not isolate safely at home.
“All I can undertake to do is to go back and ascertain to what extent the public health unit is not getting on top of the volume of cases and positive tests coming through. But so far the assurances that I and other ministers have received is that they are on top of that,” he said.
Auckland Councillor Daniel Newman, who had been delivering food parcels to people with the virus, believed home isolation could be successful.
But he thought the MOH had mandated it before putting in place enough financial, emotional and welfare services for Covid-19 patients.
He believed there could be cross-agency support from the Ministry of Social Development.
“What I say from first-hand experience is if the support isn’t there on a daily basis, if the outreach isn’t there every day of isolation, I think the risk of failure increases and obviously we can’t allow that to happen,” he said.
In the meantime, another group helping to plug the gap is the Student Volunteer Army.
They have helped with food deliveries, donated a washing machine to a family who could not visit the laundromat, and even helped bail someone from Mt Eden prison while their lawyer isolated at home.
President Sam Johnston said the group was tackling requests that other agencies were too busy to handle and sometimes they were hearing from Covid-19 patients directly.
“We’re seeing an increase in requests as other organisations have their volunteers get tired and a little burnt out. We really like providing support to those sorts of organisations – and I guess generally the level of phone calls from people is going up as the number of people in self isolation goes up,” he said.
Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield has acknowledged the system is under pressure.
He said the Ministry of Health was working to get more resources to help support and contact people isolating at home.
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