Waikato DHB has very clear policies and protocols for the use of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been continuously updated in line with the national guidance which is based on advice from experts in microbiology, infectious diseases and infection control.
At a time when there is heightened anxiety, not just in our communities but also amongst our healthcare workers, it is essential that we listen to those experts and follow their guidance.
We are aware there is some public discussion regarding the level of PPE which is available and what is required to provide safe conditions in a healthcare setting.
What is required will vary based on the task, location and patient status. At Waikato DHB the guidance for appropriate use of PPE is based on research and evidence and does not give consideration to stock levels.
All staff are required to follow this guidance.
The DHB has gone beyond best practice and provided PPE in areas considered very low risk and has encouraged and invested in significant alternate ways of working with patients and staff to avoid person to person physical contact such as Telehealth and videoconferencing.
The DHB strongly refutes any suggestion that PPE is being restricted and staff prevented from accessing masks and other protective equipment. Masks are available in all areas of the hospital and communications have previously been released to staff notifying them of the availability and use.
It is important to note that the DHB has one COVID-19 positive patient in the hospital currently and has never had more than two patients at any one time to date.
Despite following the best guidance available, it is not possible to entirely eliminate risk. It is distressing to see colleagues impacted by COVID-19, whether through testing positive or being stood down as contact tracing is undertaken. We have not yet confirmed the index case which has led to our staff members testing positive and will keep our staff and community informed as this progresses.
At the same time we will continue to follow the guidance and experience of experts and ensure staff are provided with the training and equipment which is required.