June 6, 2022
It took COVID-19 awhile to reach New Zealand – and by the time it did, the Sanford World Clinic team that supports a health system there was ready for it.
“We’re placed with being an island nation, so we had the opportunity to throw up the shutters when things started and did so just in time I think,” said Paul Keys, general practitioner clinical lead at OmniHealth in New Zealand.
“There were a lot of lessons we could learn without it being a hot spot.”
Through OmniHealth’s relationship with Sanford Health, those lessons became illuminated through a global perspective.
While the Sanford team addressed the pandemic within its core US footprint, it was also exposed to combatting it worldwide from China to Costa Rica and Ghana to Vietnam.
“They were all in different stages of COVID based on when it reached the country and how it reached their country,” said Tracy Bieber, director of clinical services at Sanford World Clinic.
“We’re really focusing on education around management of the COVID patient.”
Sanford World Clinic has 11 partners in nine countries. There are 133 facilities, including 80 clinics and five hospitals. Partnering countries include:
- Costa Rica
- New Zealand
- South Africa
There’s never a “plug-and-play” model, Bieber said. But Sanford has been taking out relevant pieces from throughout its overall recommendation and helping implement those in other places.
One powerful example has been in New Zealand, where Sanford World Clinic and New Zealand-based Omni Health Ltd. opened a general practice clinic in Auckland in early 2018.
Sanford is helping develop its $30 million network, bringing small, independent clinics together and integrating them into Sanford World Clinic.
With Sanford’s guidance, Omni is aligning its nursing care with best practices in the US Historically, doctors in New Zealand have been tasked with everything from rooming their patients to taking vital signs. It can eat up time, especially in a country with a shortage of general practitioners.
“We (now) work more in floor roles; we’ve implemented a lot of standing orders,” said Janay Wilson, a registered nurse at OmniHealth in New Zealand.
“We’ve done a lot of UTI standing orders, so normally the nurse would do basic observation and a urine sample, and because we’ve been short on doctors, the nurse can do the whole role. If they meet criteria, we can give antibiotics and go from there, which definitely helps with appointments for doctors.”
The support from Sanford, including with COVID-related best practices and protocols, has been a welcome resource, Keys said.
“That is making such a difference to people even now,” he said. “We have a workforce constraint. We’ve been counted on people coming into the country, and with the border (closed) we just had to find different ways of doing things, and I find a lot of acceptance in the clinic from everybody. Having a team to back us up is important. I don’t think we could have done it on our own.”
Notably, most of the people working together between Omni and Sanford have never met face to face. The hope is to change that by later this year with travel restrictions eased.
“We’re all back to traveling,” Bieber said. “I was in Ghana in March. And what’s been so challenging yet empowering is we haven’t been able to travel to New Zealand. So we have built and developed all these relationships through virtual platforms and accomplished a lot of rigor around that organization virtually.”
The strategy going forward is “continuing to build our relationships within country and dig deep,” she said, adding there aren’t any planned expansions into other nations at least for the coming year.