“The Government has once again dropped the ball on its COVID-19 response, but community care has picked it up,” says ACT Deputy Leader and Health Spokesperson Brooke van Velden.

“Health Minister Andrew Little said today that some people recovering from COVID-19 at home may need to be provided with a pulse oximeter.

“Pulse oximeters can be used by people diagnosed with COVID-19 and are used to show oxygen levels at home. They can be monitored by GPs in the community. If oxygen levels drop, that is an indication that the person needs hospitalisation.

However, Written Parliamentary Questions (WPQs) from August show the Government hadn’t received any advice on the use of pulse oximeters.

“WPQs due back today ask whether the Government has any plans to procure a stockpile of oxygen saturation monitors, or pulse oximeters, to provide for community-based monitoring of COVID-19 positive patients. We hope for a positive answer.

“The model the Government is now rolling out with community care and pulse oximeters is a model that has been used in Ontario, Canada since March. As part of Ontario’s COVID@Home Initiative, the Ministry of Health has stockpiled oxygen saturation monitors to be used by GPs to monitor COVID-19 positive patients at home.

“However, the Government should have planned for the current situation much earlier by looking at the international evidence of what systems work and bringing community providers on board.

“The Government needed a better plan for how the health system could cope with COVID-19 in the community. We needed a plan for unexpected surges in demand on our healthcare system.

“Being told we could afford a slow vaccine rollout because we didn’t have COVID-19 in the community is one of the most reckless things any Government in New Zealand has ever done and we are now paying the price, with our freedom.”