7 May 2020

PPE distribution to community support workers 'appropriate'

3:04 pm on 7 May 2020

A review for the Health Minister has found the way personal protection equipment is being distributed to community support workers is appropriate.

No caption

Health Minister David Clark ordered the review. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

The Minister David Clark ordered the review a fortnight ago after weeks of shortages of PPE supply to homecare and other workers.

The review found some teething problems but these were now resolved, the Minister said in a statement.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

"That gives me confidence that the distribution system is now working more efficiently."

The Health Ministry set up a national distribution system in mid-April, but it still relied on the 20 district health boards actually handing out the PPE, and complaints of shortages have continued.

The Director General of Health was now confident that all DHBs had appropriate processes distribute PPE to all their community-based providers, to work closely with providers on any apparent shortages, and to resolve any concerns or complaints, Clark said.

"The results of this rapid stocktake are encouraging - particularly given the speed at which the new centralised distribution system was established and the sheer scale of demand for PPE from community providers.

"Our frontline health and disability workers take great care of the public, and in turn they deserve access to appropriate PPE to keep themselves safe."

The ministry and DHBs would keep working to improve the speed of distribution, response to complaints, and guidance on PPE use, he said.

The chair of an oversight committee set up in recent days by the Minister, Sir Brian Roche, would keep an eye on distribution.

The rapid audit was done in just one day by the DHBs surveying their own processes, without external input.

Almost all DHBs told the ministry they were delivering PPE to a community provider within one or two days, and even more rapidly when it was urgent.

The exceptions were Nelson-Marlborough, and Lakes, which said non-urgent delivery would take one week.

Waikato and MidCentral did not report back how long it was taking.

Half a dozen DHBs reported receiving "a few" complaints or just a single complaint.

"Complaints have included dissatisfaction when requests for products have been denied or the quantities provided are less than what was sought," the Southern DHB said.

There was also concern that the public messaging appeared at odds with official PPE guidelines, it said.

Waikato DHB said concerns related to miscommunication during hectic times, courier issues due to lockdown, and expectations about speed and quantities.

"Providers are very anxious and this has meant requests for PPE are sometimes not based on the procedure or task, but on natural and understandable anxiety," MidCentral told the ministry.

Taranaki had field queries about types of PPE outside of ministry guidelines, and requests for unreasonable quantities, or more stock than could be provided.

Many DHBs reported receiving compliments.

"There have been thanks received from most of the external providers and for the most part, they are grateful for any assistance given," Taranaki DHB said.

"The current process appears to be working, as there have been no further issues once guidance from the ministry was given and the process made clear."

Dr Bloomfield told the Minister that DHBs had worked hard to establish new distribution systems under alert level 4, including to supply community providers they had not previously had contact with, as some providers used to acquire their own PPE separately.

"The ministry continues to work hard with DHB procurement partners to secure sufficient stock ... working closely [to] collect accurate demand and usage data to inform supply chain sourcing, procurement and planning," he said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs