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Tamiflu stocks nowhere near enough - Kedgley

23 November 2005

Tamiflu stocks nowhere near enough - Kedgley

The existing stocks of Tamiflu are not sufficient to protect the 65,000 health care workers and 25,000 emergency staff, let alone their families and vulnerable New Zealanders, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"The Government must put in an urgent order for additional supplies."

District Health Board's are required by legislation to protect their staff from serious harm -such as bird flu -and to offer them as much protection as possible.

"Clearly, in the event of an outbreak of bird flu, health workers exposed to sick people would want to use Tamiflu prophylactically, to reduce their risks of exposure to the virus.

"If health workers used it prophylactically, this could mean they would need a tablet every day for up to 12 weeks. This would use up the bulk of the supply of Tamiflu in New Zealand, and would mean there would be little left over for the rest of the population," she says.

Ms Kedgley pointed out that DHB's are required by the 2002 Health and Safety in Employment Act to provide a safe environment for their staff, and the Act permits workers to refuse to perform work if they think it is likely to cause serious harm to them.

Similarly the National Health Emergency Plan: Infectious Diseases requires health providers to ensure that a safe working environment is provided for all staff. This suggested an obligation to provide Tamiflu prophylactically as it is the only known defence against bird flu at this stage.

Ms Kedgley says she is also concerned by the confusing advice DHB's were receiving from the Health Ministry about the need to stockpile their own supplies of Tamiflu.

"If DHB's are to stockpile supplies of Tamiflu for their staff, they should have been given clear directions to this effect a year ago," Ms Kedgley says.


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