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Close Contact Nurses Working Underscores DHB Staffing Issues

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says the fact that nurses who live with close contacts are being asked to turn up for work at Auckland’s DHBs, and monitor themselves for symptoms in the meantime, shows how desperate the health system is in terms of short staffing.

On Friday 20 August the Ministry of Health issued an exemption for essential health workers from the need to fully self-isolate as long as certain conditions were met.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has said hospitals are identifying the lowest-risk people they can have working at the moment so our health system can continue to function.

But NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says there is a clear public health order that housemates of close contacts are required to self-isolate and they are still required to do so because they are a health risk.

"The health direction to self-isolate is there for good reason and there should be no exceptions."

Ms Nuku said nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora working in DHBs have been speaking out about unsafe staffing for decades.

"Successive governments have not listened, and nurses have just been told over and over to do more with less. The result of this is what you see now, where the Government has changed the Ministry of Health’s public health advice because the DHBs don’t have enough staff.

"It just makes no sense and further underscores the very urgent need to address short staffing by recognising and rewarding nursing so it’s a job people will want to do."

She said nurses staying away from work because they live with close contacts is also a protection for them, and that nurses were as entitled to that protection as anybody else.

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