Important information about Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)


Council's Chair, Dr Curtis Walker sent the following email to all practising doctors on 11 February 2020.

Tēnā koutou Colleagues,

With the World Health Organisation declaring the Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, it is timely to ensure that we, as doctors, are aware of our roles and responsibilities in times of an emergency situation such as a pandemic.

The Ministry of Health has established a COVID-19 resource site . This site includes regular updates and guidance for health professionals around symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and infection control measures.

Since 30 January this year, COVID-19 has been a notifiable disease. This means health practitioners and laboratories are required to notify medical officers of health of any suspected cases. At the time of writing no cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in New Zealand. 

However, we all need to consider how to respond professionally and safely to this unfolding situation.

The most important steps all doctors can take are to be aware of the relevant features of the patient's history and presentation that suggest COVID-19 as a possible diagnosis, and of the immediate actions to take as detailed by the Ministry and local infection control protocols.

Overseas experience demonstrates that health care workers can safely provide care to patients with COVID-19, and have an important role in limiting the spread of the infection by adhering to strict infection control protocols. 

Council does not expect any doctor to deliberately put themselves in danger to treat a patient in a pandemic or emergency. You should not risk exposure to COVID-19 when examining or treating patients if appropriate personal protection equipment is not available. It is also important that you make yourself aware of any relevant protocols in effect at your place of work, in addition to those notified by the Ministry of Health.

Finally, I have attached links to some relevant Council statements, which I encourage you to read.  This includes guidelines issued by Council, in conjunction with other health practitioner regulators in New Zealand (the HRANZ joint guidelines).

Noho ora mai,

Curtis Walker
Medical Council of New Zealand