5 May 2020

Waitematā DHB creates work 'bubbles' to curb spread of Covid-19

6:50 pm on 5 May 2020

Waitematā District Health Board (DHB) is creating work 'bubbles' to limit staff movements at hospitals dealing with Covid-19 patients.

Nurses take a break on their shifts at NYU Langone Hospital in New York City, USA, during coronavirus pandemic on April 10, 2020. (Photo by John Nacion/NurPhoto)

Nurses taking a break at a New York hospital. (File photo). Photo: AFP

It comes amid a probe into how three nurses at Waitākere Hospital were able to contract the virus despite wearing PPE gear. Seven other cases are linked to the outbreak.

Waitematā DHB acting chief executive Andrew Brant said the bubble would change staff rostering at the DHB's hospitals dealing with Covid-19 patients so they would not work in other areas on subsequent days. Right now, that only applies to North Shore hospital.

The four Northern DHBs had supported Waitākere Hospital staffing arrangements that allowed nurses to work in different Covid-19 and non-Covid wards.

It was safe for staff to be rostered on Covid-19 and non-Covid wards as long as it was not on the same day and infection control protocols were followed, they said in a statement on Sunday.

The about-turn by the Waitematā DHB also appears at odds with the Ministry of Health's insistence that the staff movements are standard practice.

At today's media briefing, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the last few weeks had been a learning experience.

"There is a review under way," he said when asked if the Waitākere outbreak showed the practice of moving staff between wards was not safe.

"All DHBs are interested, what can we learn? How do we strengthen our protocols and make sure that we are reducing the risk to our frontline health workers?"

Experts are calling for the bubble measures at Waitematā DHB to be extended across the country.

Nurses Organisation adviser Kate Weston said the group was telling the government weeks ago that nurses at one DHB were scared about moving around hospitals, but they were told by their employer that they had to continue.

"The nurses concerned were extremely distressed," she said.

Massey University nursing professor Jenny Carryer said the hospital ward movements were due to notorious staffing shortages, but that it was probably "100 percent safer" to have nurses not moving between wards.

Meanwhile, all staff at the Northern DHBs are being offered Covid-19 tests.

Around 400 staff at the Waitematā DHB have been tested, and all have come back negative, Brant said.

The review into the Waitākere Hospital cases is due within a week.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP

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