3 Sep 2021

Covid-19: 'We were all ready to put our hand up to help Auckland' - Dunedin nurse

6:36 am on 3 September 2021

A Dunedin nurse who's leaving his family behind to help with Auckland's Covid-19 effort says he's doing it to keep them - and the whole country - safe.

Nurse Mike O'Brien is leaving his family in Dunedin to help with Auckland's Covid response

Nurse Mike O'Brien is leaving his family in Dunedin to help with Auckland's Covid response Photo: SUPPLIED

Mike O'Brien is one of more than 100 nurses who have answered the call from Auckland's district health boards to help as cases escalate putting pressure on the hospitals.

As an infection prevention and control specialist at Southern DHB, his job is to stop diseases spreading in hospitals - and for the last 18 months he's been focused on Covid.

There are only a few like him in every DHB so, with so much Covid in Auckland, his skills are needed there.

He will miss his wife and two young children but said he didn't hesitate when he saw the call for nurses.

"A lot of us were ready to go. We were all ready to put our hand up to help Auckland," he said.

If Covid-19 spreads beyond the city it could be devastating for everyone - including his family, he said.

"My children will be vulnerable, my parents are older and vulnerable, so I'm prepared to do anything I can to make sure Delta doesn't get a hold in New Zealand."

One of his roles will be to help ensure the new Covid areas being built are up to scratch and as effective as possible at stopping transmission.

Hospitals have been scrambling to build more negative pressure rooms, and other spaces to care for Covid-19 patients, with the current spaces full.

And O'Brien will help make sure staff are using the safest procedures and have proper PPE.

The work is rewarding but he is also feeling the pressure with such high stakes.

"We're working in healthcare facilities that are beyond their use by date with an already stretched workforce so there's a lot of room for error and we really want to get it right," he said.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said over 100 nurses are ready to come up to help in Auckland in areas from intensive care to managed isolation.

O'Brien said there was great camaraderie among nurses around the country, especially in the face of the Delta threat.

And he has been grateful to see New Zealanders getting behind the plan to drive it out.

"We've seen health systems around the world crumble under the weight of Covid-19 and we're in a really unique situation in New Zealand where we can try and eliminate Delta. And, it is worth doing it for the sake of everyone."

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