Returning to Normal after Norovirus

You may have noticed a slight break in the blog lately. Sorry for this – I was struck down by a very bad case of a flu-like illness. I say flu-like as I did actually have a flu jab this year but unfortunately picked up a really nasty bug somewhere which rendered me bed-bound for five days. I even failed the $50 test (if you see $50 on the floor and can summon the energy to crawl out of bed to pick it up, you’ve got a cold. If not, you’ve got the flu) but on the flip side, I was able to do a very passable Barry White impression.

The dreaded lurgy struck me at the same time as the Norovirus outbreak struck Middlemore Hospital. After such a busy winter, the very last thing we needed was an outbreak of Norovirus, especially at the beginning of the school holidays when many staff get a well-deserved break. Despite all this, I was thoroughly impressed by the way all staff handled the outbreak. Both the Infection Control Team, led by Eman Radwan, and the Incident Management Team, under Dot McKeen, did an absolutely superb job as did staff in Ward 34E (which became a ward dedicated to patients with diarrhoea and vomiting), cleaning staff and countless others. You all came together to manage the outbreak in a textbook fashion, with the end result that it was much shorter and more contained than it otherwise might have been. The fact that we were able to deal with an outbreak with minimal disruption to our usual standard of care, and return to normal so quickly, is testament to your professionalism and team work. Thank you.

Although I haven’t had any personal experience of it, I know how very nasty Norovirus can be. What I found interesting is that after we asked the public to stay away from hospital wherever possible, presentations to ED dropped dramatically. This illustrates to me how amenable demand for ED can be when we ensure there are alternative options available for the public. Our 20,000 Days campaign, aimed at addressing rising demand on Middlemore Hospital and ensuring that people are able to be treated in the community or at home where appropriate, has been focusing on just that. To September 30 this year, we have had 7433 fewer bed days than we might have expected and demand is beginning to drop below the rate we have previously seen. There’s no doubt that the winter just gone was very, very busy for the hospital but it would have been unmanageable without the steps we have begun to put in place. Over the coming months we will continue to ‘save’ bed days and I look really forward to seeing our progress towards the 20,000 goal.

A couple of weeks ago I shared my ‘must-read’ books with you in response to requests from staff. I’m really keen to blog about topics that are of interest to staff and invite you to email me other requests on if there are particular things you’d like to hear about. Over the next few weeks I plan to share with you some of our successes: how our surgical services have progressed over the last two years and are now attracting international attention and acclaim, CM Health’s performance against the Ministry of Health’s national Health Targets, and an update on the development of our Localities strategy which will start to deliver more health services in the community next year. I also plan to feature a patient’s perspective about their time with us to find out just what it’s like to receive care here.

Finally, in response to last week’s post about Mindfulness, a staff member recommended we collect and share ‘thoughts for the day’ as a way of promoting mental and emotional wellbeing. I think this is a great idea and invite anyone to leave these as comments on my blog. Walking here today, I was thinking about the nice, warm, sunny weather and how this coming weekend is Labour Weekend. Hopefully this signifies a bit of a break for us all and the start of warmer weather – after the past few weeks I think we all deserve a bit of sunshine.



Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

2 thoughts on “Returning to Normal after Norovirus”

  1. Thanks for the blog, I enjoy reading your posts. I would like to offer a thought for the day. One of my favourite quotes is from Po Bronson, “We tend to overestimate what can be achieved in one year, and vastly underestimate what can be achieved in five years”. It’s from his book “What Should I Do With My Life” (fabulous book by the way). It’s a reminder that significant change does not usually come from short, spectacular action, it is the cumulative result of consistent action in a particular direction.

    In health it’s easy to get discouraged about the size of the challenges and the time it takes to effect change, but while results are seldom quick and obvious, they are there when we look for them.

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