Thursday, December 9

DHB staff are anxious after being told they cannot work from home

A medical union says Canterbury DHB staff aren’t the only ones told they can’t work from home.

The new acute services building at Christchurch Hospital.

The Acute Services building at Christchurch Hospital.
Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

An email from Canterbury DHB staff sent to RNZ stated that duty managers were being told that all listed staff should report to their workplace, not from home.

The reason: there were no cases of Covid-19 in the South Island and vaccination was available.

The Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Sarah Dalton, said it was not only Canterbury staff who were feeling anxious, as other DHBs were making similar demands.

The Canterbury DHB has since said that the email was based on current advice that had been misinterpreted and corrected.

But that directive was sent to staff at at least one Canterbury DHB department before it reached Dalton’s inbox.

“It’s really frustrating. I think some of them are also quite anxious about those kinds of instructions and it’s really confusing when you get a message on the 1:00 PM updates, another message from your employer and the way that the message is being composed. It is not particularly polite. “

Health workers in at least half a dozen other regions face similar problems, he said.

“It is happening in various hospitals across the country where, not only are staff required to be present at work, but the tasks they have to perform are not directly related to, or basically, acute care patient care.” . They are asked to do things that could be done at any time and that are not strictly part of their role.

“So we think it’s really important that there is clinically led decision-making through the lockdown rather than some kind of bureaucratic command and control.”

Twice a week, Dalton, the Ministry of Health, DHB and other unions meet to give more consistent advice to DHB and its staff.

“It is a real struggle, even once the advice is agreed and published. We find infinitely many examples where that agreed national advice is not being complied with either by the whole of one DHB or by particular services in various DHBs, and I suppose that it’s partly the nature of a system where you have 20 different DHBs doing their thing.

“Maybe with Health NZ that will change. I don’t know.”

Canterbury DHB Emergency Coordination Center Controller Tracey Maisey said the more than 11,000 DHB workers had an important role to play as essential personnel.

“There is no directive that all staff have to come to work. Some staff whose duties can be carried out effectively from home can, with their manager’s permission, perform their regular work remotely,” he said Maisey.

“The note to a small group of staff to which it refers misinterpreted the current advice and we have corrected this information.”

At Alert Level 4, he said that some clinical staff were conducting phone or video consultations, but were working in the office to access files and diagnostic information.

“It is important that clinical staff continue to arrive to work for their scheduled shifts as we are still operating a busy 24/7 acute care hospital and require staff to be on the job,” he said. .

“Some clinical staff have been reassigned to assist in our Covid-19 vaccination clinics and testing centers and with contact tracing while their regular work is on hold.

“There is a great deal of non-patient-facing work for clinical staff, such as updating guidelines, planning for business continuity and Covid-19 contingency, approving test results, case conferences, etc.”

The Health Ministry said it had not issued any advice to DHBs on staff working from home.

“DHBs are in the best position to determine how they should continue to operate during the Covid response, while keeping their staff safe. The Ministry is not the employer and does not get involved with DHB’s operational issues; these are matters to be resolved. the management of DHB, “said the Ministry.

“The Ministry understands that DHBs in different regions are evaluating what work can be safely completed from home based on their operational requirements.

“DHBs provide essential services and as such will continue to operate with appropriate precautions in place during level 4.”

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