Concerns have been raised about how rural residents can be safely treated for Covid-19 at home, after a patient waited three hours for an ambulance to treat Covid-19 symptoms. Rosalina Puhi, a resident in the rural Far North town of Mangamuka, has been documenting her family’s ups and downs on social media after she tested positive for Covid-19 last week. The small outbreak in Northland has seven reported cases, with Puhi’s husband, Manga, receiving a positive result on Thursday afternoon, taking the total to eight.StuffIt took three hours for an ambulance to arrive in Mangamuka for a patient suffering severe Covid-19 symptoms, highlighting the lack of healthcare in rural areas. (File photo) The family are staying at home in Mangamuka under new isolation rules. READ MORE:* Covid-19: Calls for Northland to return to lockdown after seven Covid cases* Covid-19: What home isolation will look like as Auckland leaves elimination strategy behind* Covid-19: More than 500 Aucklanders are isolating at home But on Wednesday morning, Manga Puhi took a turn for the worse, with a severe headache, pain in his hands, an aching body, sore throat and neck, and a need to urinate every 30 minutes.Denise Piper/StuffMangamuka is a rural area, about 35 minutes from Kaitāia. (File photo) Rosalina Puhi called an ambulance at about 9.30am. She kept in contact with emergency services, but it took three hours for an ambulance to arrive, she wrote in a public social media post. Manga Puhi, who is unvaccinated, was diagnosed with Covid-19 symptoms and encouraged to fight it out in home isolation, she wrote. His symptoms have since improved. When contacted by Stuff, Rosalina Puhi said she did not want to talk to any more media until her family’s ordeal was over. Tony Devanney, St John Northland district operations manager, said the organisation took patient welfare very seriously, and realised it was not ideal for patients to be waiting for ambulances. In this case, an ambulance was dispatched after a 111 call at 9.37am, but was redirected to a higher-priority, potentially life-threatening call-out. All other emergency vehicles were committed to high-priority, time-critical call-outs at the time. Three welfare checks were carried out between 10.15am and 12.16pm, Devanney said. When a subsequent 111 call at 11.30am recorded a change in the patient’s condition, the next available ambulance was assigned immediately, arriving at the address at 12.19pm.Getty ImagesThe Ministry of Health’s website says its Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities include a dedicated health team to care for patients. (File photo) “The crew assessed and treated the patient at the scene. They were in a minor condition and no transport to a medical centre or hospital was required,” he said. Devanney said people should continue to dial 111 for an ambulance in an emergency, but be mindful there may be a significant delay if their condition is not immediately life-threatening. Anyone feeling generally unwell, or needing health advice about Covid-19, should call their regular health provider or Healthline in the first instance, and consider other methods of transport to medical facilities for non-urgent conditions, he said. But Northland locum GP and University of Auckland associated dean for rural health Dr Kyle Eggleton said the case highlighted his concern about rural Covid-19 patients isolating at home. More than 500 people in Auckland are now isolating at home and are being monitored by Healthline, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said on Wednesday. But the situation is more complicated for rural patients, who often have to wait “hours and hours” for an ambulance, Eggleton said. “It’s a common problem in very rural, isolated areas – trying to get emergency care to some of these places,” he said. Northland also has a chronic GP shortage, with a number of clinics refusing to take new patients, which means residents might not have a local doctor, he said. Eggleton was not sure how isolating at home could work properly in rural areas, and said GPs were awaiting guidelines on how it would be done.SuppliedRueben Taipari, regional co-ordinator of Tai Tokerau Border Control, says the family’s symptoms shows Covid-19 needs to be taken seriously. (File photo) “In urban areas, you’re so close to additional services and 24-hour care is often available. In rural areas, we’re going to be heavily reliant on local NGOs or community providers, and it places a huge 24-hour burden on those providers.” However, Eggleton didn’t think a blanket ban on rural residents isolating at home would work, as those who wanted to be at home would be disadvantaged. Tai Tokerau Border Control has been offering the Mangamuka family help and support, its regional co-ordinator Rueben Taipari said. The family also had problems getting medical help during Labour Weekend, he said. “It’s absolutely a valid concern. We don’t have ambulances, we don’t have hospitals or staff on call.” Taipari said the symptoms the family are suffering are an example of why Covid-19 needs to be taken seriously, especially for rural and Māori residents. The Ministry of Health has been contacted for comment.