South Canterbury emergency service officials credit good planning and contingency plans with helping to ensure the provision of uninterrupted services throughout the pandemic.
New Zealand Police Aoraki Region Commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said Covid-19 had impacted his organization as much as any other, and like many others , planning had been the key to overcoming possible staffing shortages.
“In South Canterbury we have been fortunate to only have small groups at a time and through planning and roster composition we have been able to ensure that we continue to provide the service that the community of South Canterbury expects and deserves,” said Gaskin.
“Through this planning, we were able to ensure that response services were generally unaffected. We also supported other operations across the country, such as the demonstration in parliament.
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Gaskin said police followed government advice and rigorous hygiene practices to help reduce the impact of the virus, and as a result most staff who were infected did not catch the virus. at their place of work.
“Our response to the pandemic has demonstrated that with good leadership and great staff, anything can be achieved.
“One thing we realize is that this pandemic is not over, and we will need to be flexible to be able to meet any challenge that comes our way.”
Gaskin added that the closure of international borders and falling tourist numbers had led to a significant drop in the number of vehicles on the roads in south Canterbury.
“This is especially true on State Highway 8’s high-density tourist routes through the Mackenzie Basin,” he said.
“Interestingly, although the number of calls received reporting poor driving has dropped significantly, this has not translated into a similar drop in the number of vehicle accidents.
“The number of people killed in vehicle accidents remains at an unacceptable level, which shows that the perception of international drivers is unfair.”
Rob Hands, district manager of Fire and Emergency New Zealand Mid-South Canterbury, said operational decisions to maintain capacity and protect people from Omicron impacts are made at the local level.
“Brigades across the country have taken this approach since the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. Firefighters, career and volunteer, are still responding to all communities in South Canterbury.
“Although we have staff in the area who have Covid or who are household contacts, all fire stations in South Canterbury are operating and responding to emergencies as normal.”
Hands said that as an emergency response organisation, Fire and Emergency NZ have always had contingency plans in place, so they can respond.
“On any day, several incidents could occur at the same time. This is what we anticipate and why we have contingency plans in place.
“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been planning how we might respond to different scenarios and continue to keep our communities safe. We are confident in the contingency plans we have in place and will continue to adapt them as needed. »
He said examples of contingency plans include supporting neighboring brigades, relocating resources, recruiting and a range of other tools.
St John South Canterbury area operations manager Darryn Grigsby said that despite the additional challenges the ambulance service had continued to move forward during the pandemic.
“We have been fortunate to have received an increase in staff in recent years, which has given us a greater ability to maintain and continue our usual level of service since the start of the pandemic, but more importantly, since that the Covid-19 Omicron variant was the first confirmed in the community,” Grigsby said.
“However, it has always been a difficult time for our teams – both with increased demand and with additional Covid-19 health and safety requirements.
“We know that every shift is busy and it is uncomfortable and hot to wear personal protective equipment regularly with every patient.”
Grigsby said while they continue to see a steady number of positive and suspected Covid-19 cases in the community, to date St John South Canterbury has only had six Covid-19 contract staff. and have to isolate themselves.
“Where we have had periods of staff illness, including Covid-19, and may need to cover a shift, we will generally use unregistered or off-duty paramedics,” he said. declared.
“Non-operational staff have been able to work from home as much as possible during the pandemic.”