1 Mar 2022

More than 13 percent of Counties Manukau DHB staff off work due to Covid-19

6:14 pm on 1 March 2022

More than 440 of the Counties Manukau DHB staff not at work because of Covid-19 are frontline rostered staff.

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Photo: 123rf

Counties Manukau District Health Board has corrected figures it gave earlier about the impact of Covid on staff.

It initially said 13.5 percent of staff were isolating but now said that percentage referred to frontine rostered staff only.

A spokeswoman said 228 were off because they were sick, while another 215 were off for Covid related leave, meaning someone in their home had Covid-19.

They were not able to give a figure of the total number of DHB staff off work, she said.

And all of Auckland's district health boards are now postponing some non-urgent operations, with 283 Covid-19 patients in hospitals across the city yesterday.

There are about 6500 people employed at the DHB across Middlemore Hospital, the Manukau Super Clinic and other South Auckland health facilities.

Clinical director of surgery John Kenealy said in a statement the DHB had postponed 147 non-critical surgical procedures in the past two weeks, about 10 percent of planned operations over that time.

It was not clear what the percentage was for the past few days when Covid-19 patients at Middlemore had risen to 128.

There had been no disruption to acute and urgent surgery, and some non-urgent operations were still able to go ahead, Kenealy said.

Auckland Hospital confirmed last week it was drastically cutting back on planned care, with Greenlane Hospital doing very little of it at all.

Waitematā DHB was deferring some planned operations, partly because some theatres in its Elective Surgery Centre had been converted into rooms to care for Covid-19 patients.

A spokesperson said it would minimise the number by transferring some patients to North Shore and Waitakere hospitals.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Waitematā DHB organiser Sarah Barker said there were about 120 staff away because of Covid-19 yesterday.

Nurses there, and across Auckland, were feeling the pressure of colleagues being away because their workplaces were already so short-staffed, she said.

"Nurses are incredibly resilient, and tough as. Some are definitely now pushed to the sort of levels of stress they've potentially never experienced before," she said.

The DHB had a good plan for caring for people with Covid-19 but it was other services that would miss out, as resources were diverted, she said.

Waikato Hospital, which had 28 cases yesterday, the most outside of Auckland, was also delaying some non-urgent planned surgery.

It has been very difficult to get straight answers from most district health boards on planned surgery.

RNZ sent emails to every DHB, except Auckland, a week ago asking whether there were changes to planned care and how many staff were isolating because of Covid-19.

All forwarded the queries to the Ministry of Health.

The ministry has not provided RNZ with an answer, despite repeated requests, other than an initial response that said planned care disruptions had long been part of hospitals' strategies for dealing with a large Covid-19 outbreak.

*This story was edited after Counties Manukau amended the information it provided yesterday. It had intially said 13.5 percent of all staff were away but it has corrected that figure to 13.5 percent of frontline rostered staff.

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