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Unsafe MIQ Staffing And Conditions Putting Us All At Risk

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says two health workers infected with COVID-19 in Christchurch are a symptom of systemic, structural problems with the way managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities are being managed in New Zealand that threaten the wellbeing of nurses and other health workers - and indeed the whole country.

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said NZNO is also aware of significant problems in Auckland facilities managed by Counties Manukau DHB, where nurses and health workers are under-staffed, have insufficient access to PPE and do not have the support in place to enable them to care for the large influx of quarantined people - whose needs are also being neglected.

"Our members are telling us they are anxious and fearful. The woeful working conditions at these facilities are leading to unsafe practices which put their health at risk. This puts those they care for at risk and poses a threat to the border and therefore to the welfare of the public.

"This is important because it is our border control that sets us apart from other countries and keeps us all safe."

Ms Nuku said this is not an isolated problem, and nor is it one that will go away without concerted action.

"If these systemic issues are not identified and remedied, this will be an ongoing problem. The health and spiritual and cultural needs of the overseas people in MIQ have been radically underestimated and there just aren’t the staff or resources available to meet those needs."

Ms Nuku repeated NZNO’s call for a review of how MIQ facilities are run to identify systemic failures, and said she feared more health workers would become infected if this was not done urgently.

"We need assurances across the board that our members will be cared for and safe, because at the moment they are telling us they are not."

NZNO Industrial Adviser DHB David Wait said the conditions for workers in these facilities had been exacerbated by problems with rostering and inadequate pay for nurses and other health staff working in MIQ facilities, and that NZNO organisers had been working tirelessly with members to identify and address these issues.

"Counties Manukau DHB has taken steps to fix its payroll issues and has provided assurances to NZNO members about their hours of work.

"They are also engaging with us to address concerns over unsafe staffing and we believe they are taking these concerns seriously. However, we need urgent action over promises. Until these issues are resolved finding sufficient staff will be especially challenging and the threat to New Zealanders will remain very real."

NZNO is working closely with other CTU affiliated unions and MBIE to develop a Work Participation Agreement (WPA). This WPA will be applicable to all workers across all MIQ facilities in New Zealand. The WPA will be a mechanism to ensure worker engagement participation and representation for all workers in these facilities around all health and safety matters.

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