The Nurses Organization says that nurses living with close contacts are asked to report to work at the Auckland DHBs.
The union says it is deeply concerned about an exemption from the Health Ministry issued last week for essential health workers, meaning they do not need to isolate themselves completely, as long as certain conditions are met.
The NZNO also says in a survey of some of its members, 60 percent reported that they still experience trouble getting enough PPE or the proper masks.
Nurses Organization Director Kerri Nuku said Nine at noon It seemed like the DHBs were taking shortcuts.
Nuku said that last week the government made changes to Section 70 of the 1956 Health Act with the purpose of preventing the outbreak and spread of Covid-19.
“What it says in a normal situation is that if you’ve been a close contact, you should go home, isolate yourself, and make sure a Covid test has been done.
“This direction applies to members of the general public, but where there is a difference is whether it applies to essential health workers.”
The amendments to the Act mean that a nurse who considers herself a close contact can return to work if she has been fully vaccinated, the close contact of any household member has tested negative, and no household member has symptoms of Covid-19.
However, Nuku said nurses in Auckland were being called back to work before these requirements were met and he felt DHBs were taking shortcuts.
She said the waivers were in response to chronic staffing shortages and that the boards weren’t prepared for the latest outbreak.
One of the main concerns of the Union with these new exemptions for essential healthcare workers is that the implementation of these rules could vary between DHBs.
“What we want is to have a discussion around the table and clarify as it is at the moment, what we have seen is that there are different interpretations in different DHB.
“We need to send a unique message and that must come clearly from the Ministry of Health, so we want to be at the table having those discussions to ensure that our members are safe when they go to work, are clear about what they have the right to do and (what that) they shouldn’t do, “Nuku said.
Nuku feared that if an infected nurse brought Covid-19 to a hospital, public blame would fall on healthcare workers.
He said the government should pay more attention to offer them more protection.
“There has been an immense frustration of what we talked about last year and what we have talked about in previous years.
“Each Ministry of Health will always tell you that nurses are the backbone of the health system, but that is not reflected in the policies or actions they choose to take.”
Nurses are also concerned about the status of PPE management with a union survey showing 62 percent of nurses have not received enough PPE or proper fit testing for their N-95 masks.
“It really amazes us, we said during the first outbreak that our nurses were saying ‘we don’t have access to PPE, we are putting together our own equipment to make sure we are safe.
“Many of our members, many of our staff, were at the end of a conversation where the nurses were absolutely distraught because they couldn’t get the proper personal protective equipment to protect themselves and keep their families safe,” Nuku said.
The Ministry of Health has been contacted for comment.
Meanwhile, Brian Betty, medical director of the College of General Practitioners, said that PPE delivery systems were performing better than at this time last year in the primary health care sector.
“Certainly, two or three weeks ago there were some problems related to the supply of PPE and distribution problems, but recently I have not heard of problems in general practice, in general, the systems are in operation now and we have had guarantees from the Ministry that is the appropriate PPE in the country.
“I haven’t heard any reports of problems recently, so it seems to be working compared to last year when we had a lot of problems,” he said.