GPs are questioning the need for rigid, 48-hour stand-downs in general practices where someone has tested positive for COVID-19.
RNZCGP president and Wellington GP Sam Murton says the college has asked the Ministry of Health and public health units to clarify how long clinics must temporarily close.
“From a business perspective, being told to shut for 48 hours and get a deep clean is quite tricky,” Dr Murton says.
“We’re following up with [the agencies] to find out what are the actual rules, so we can give some guidance to our practices.”
Many practices, including her own Capital Care Health Centre clinic in Wellington, have physically separate “A” and “B” clinical teams.
If one team is sent home to self-isolate after potential exposure to COVID-19, the other can stand to until test results confirm negative for the affected team.
Provided a deep clean is performed on the practice, Dr Murton doesn’t see any reason why a practice cannot immediately reopen using its non-exposed clinical team.
New Zealand Doctor | Rata Aotearoa has also approached the ministry for clarity on clinic closure rules and whether financial support is available for clinic cleaning.
‘Practices aren’t supermarkets’
Dr Murton points out cleaning a small general practice is not as complicated as cleaning a supermarket.
Last week, four medical clinics experienced closures after patients tested positive. They were Otahuhu Health Centre, Westview Medical Centre and White Cross New Lynn in Auckland, and Tokoroa Family Health in south Waikato.
Mt Wellington Integrated Healthcare underwent a deep clean last Friday, the day after GP Joe Williams received a positive test result for COVID-19. The practice is closed but staff are providing virtual care from home.
The New Lynn, Otahuhu and Westview centres have since reopened while Tokoroa is providing virtual consultations only for the time being.
Crime Scene Cleaners general manager Carl Loader says thorough cleans of general practices can take as little as a few hours.
It took the company just under five hours to clean Otahuhu Health Centre on the day it closed, Mr Loader says. By contrast, the team spent two days cleaning a 120 employee-strong call centre.
Depending on the size of the facility, a deep clean can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.
COVID-19 has increased demand for the company’s services, but it is keeping up and can contract work out.
No kid gloves cleaning practices
The company’s cleaning team members wear “haz mat” kit and respirators. When they arrive at a medical practice, they first use an ultra-low volume fogging machine to spray a micrometer-fine mist containing hospital-grade disinfectant that kills 100 per cent of a broad range of pathogens, including coronavirus.
Cleaners then clean all high-touch areas by hand, using one-direction wiping to prevent cross-contamination.
Finally, an ozone treatment is sprayed throughout the building. This ionises the air and kills airborne pathogens, Mr Loader says.
The team at Crime Scene Cleaners are called into help out with Covid-19.
Five years on and Carl still thinks about some of those cases daily.
Read this article on Carl and the Crime Scene Cleaners and some of the exposure to crime scenes they expeirence first hand.