Hundreds of visitors are allowed to visit Auckland’s DHB hospitals every day, despite the region being on the highest level of Covid-19 alert due to the Delta outbreak.
The New Zealand Nurses Organization (NZNO) says it is absurd that the DHB has the softest visitor policy of any DHB in the country, despite the increased risk in Auckland.
NZNO has been raising concerns about inconsistent visitor policies, as well as poor visitor behavior, including people who refuse to wear masks and show up in groups.
WorkSafe is now involved and the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) says it will now involve health and safety representatives in decision making.
NZNO Interim Nursing and Professional Services Manager Kate Weston said Nine at noon even other DHBs in the Auckland region had stricter visitor policies.
ADHB’s policy was “completely illogical given the size of the hospital” and the number of people admitted, he said.
“It is actually causing people to burst their level 4 alert bubbles, so there are many reasons why this is not a good decision and it is putting patients and staff at risk by having such a free policy. .
“Most hospitals in the region and across the country are limiting their visits to really strict compassionate grounds, which is understandable because obviously people in those situations need to be able to support their loved ones … but have more. one visitor at a time is a real problem.
“Until, I understand, a couple of days ago, there were multiple visitors per patient per bed. So if you put it in the context of a four-bed patient room, you can have seven or eight people of different bubbles, mixing and mingling with patients, which is a real concern.
“Then when those people are gone, another group shows up. So it’s a very considerable risk.”
The NZNO and other unions had called for national consistency around visitor rules.
“We need to minimize any degree of risk and get people into a hospital situation with insufficient controls, we are concerned about front door screening, we are concerned about how masking policies are being enforced, we really need consistency.
“We have had other national directives that affect healthcare personnel. Why can’t we have a national directive?
“We have a level 4 [lockdown] in the Auckland region. That should be enough to really ensure that strict guidelines are adhered to. “
A statement from the ADHB said patients were allowed two visits per day, but only one at a time.
The NZNO would support a visitor for compassionate reasons only.
“We are talking about the beginning and the end of life,” Weston said.
“If people are in the hospital for a short period … then people should not be visiting because the right of patients to receive visits is obviously protected, however those are extenuating circumstances.
“We cannot allow people to unknowingly bring Covid into the system, threatening patients who are vulnerable.”
In addition, the health care workforce expanded, he said.
“We don’t have the numbers to be able to unnecessarily fire staff because they have been exposed to Covid.”
She understood that people wanted to visit their loved ones, but “right now observe level 4 restrictions and stay home and protect your loved ones, those on DHB and the people who care for those patients.” .
Weston said information reaching the union suggested there was a disconnect between the control at the front door and where they were going in the hospital.
“It’s mostly up to the nursing staff to have to challenge and really get into those really unpleasant confrontational situations.
“It is not fair to put a nurse who provides care and support to patients in the role of having to watch whether or not people wear a mask, whether or not they leave on time, when you could say that many of those people should not be there right now anyway.
“But the responsibility for providing a … safe place to work actually rests with the Auckland DHB.
“This is why we have had to turn to WorkSafe to try to get legal support for what actually appears to be a very reasonable request, which is ‘come to align with all the other DHBs and the country that has done the right thing.'” . ‘. “
NZNO also wanted all patients to be treated as potentially positive for Covid-19 until proven not, and the same for visitors.
No one from the ADHB was available to speak to Nine at noon today.
However, a statement from the director of provider services, Dr. Mike Shepard, said that the safety of staff, patients and visitors was a priority.
“We have conducted a full risk assessment for this policy and we are confident that any risks are being managed well,” the statement read.
“We have visitor checks at the entrances to check for symptoms of Covid-19 and ensure the policy is adhered to.
“We are making changes to our guide and improving our processes by following feedback from our staff and their union representatives.
“Our current approach is aligned with the national guide on hospital visitors.”