Saturday, November 27

Hospital visitors grouped during level 4 say cancer patients

The Auckland District Board of Health has been accused of putting vulnerable patients and a reduced workforce at risk with lenient rules for visitors during lockdown.

Auckland City Hospital

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Two cancer patients have reported their recent daily visits to Auckland Hospital to RNZ, describing the lack of strict rules as distressing.

They said there was a terrible lack of social distancing with visitors clustered in queues and narrow hallways.

Under Alert Level 4, hospitals across the country have only been allowing visitors in for compassionate reasons, but Auckland hospitals are allowing two visitors per patient.

The national secretary of the Resident Physicians Association, Deborah Powell, said that to this day the rules were even more relaxed.

“It was basically an unrestricted policy. Today they have limited the number of visitors and the time they can be in the hospital with any patient,” he said.

“We will continue to see patients in the hospital and screening is still inadequate. People are not tested before they enter the hospital, there is no inquiry into their vaccination status.”

She said the association wanted another reconsideration of the rules, ideally without visits except in some exceptional circumstances.

The Nurses Organization agreed, and had expressed its concerns in a letter to the Director General of Health.

Nursing and Professional Services Manager Kate Weston explained she was also concerned about misbehavior from visitors, including people who refuse to wear masks and show up in groups.

“We are in a level 4 pandemic and we still have the spread of Covid in our community. Therefore, we cannot allow people to bring Covid into the system without knowing it,” he said.

She said vulnerable patients were at risk, as well as hardworking staff.

“Our workforce is already overloaded. We don’t have the numbers to be able to unnecessarily lay off staff because they have been exposed.”

In a statement, Auckland District Health Board Provider Services Director Dr Mike Shepherd said a full risk assessment had been conducted for the visitor policy and the health board was comfortable that risks were being managed well.

He noted that each visitor was screened for symptoms of Covid-19, and that the two visitors per patient would not be allowed to visit on the same day.

Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield confirmed she received the letter from the Nurses Organization and said staff members have spoken with the board of health and confirmed that their approach to visitors is consistent with national policy.

However, he said work is already underway to update the national guidelines on hospital visitors.

“Our team is working with people across the DHB to review and modify the visitor policy in light of the Delta,” he said.

“The works are finished today, so there will be an updated guide.”

Dr. Deborah Powell expected the changes to happen faster than last time.

“To obtain this improvement, this slight improvement that ADHB has implemented as of today, the unions had to issue a PIN notice which is a health and safety notice that obliges the employer to take due account of the health and safety impacts. that this is having on the workers, “she said.

The Auckland District Board of Health rejected RNZ’s interview requests.

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