4 Mar 2022

Emergency doctor says staff shortages 'incredibly significant' amid spiralling outbreak

7:30 am on 4 March 2022

An Auckland emergency doctor who is off work with Covid-19 says staff shortages are heading towards the worst she has seen.

Counties Manukau Health says it has enacted special escalation plans, including cancelling elective surgery, to deal with a surge in patients visiting Middlemore Hospital's emergency department.

Emergency departments in Auckland have been swamped with cases on some days. File photo Photo: 123RF

There are hundreds of frontline staff off across the city's hospitals, and emergency departments in Auckland have been swamped with cases on some days.

College of Emergency Medicine New Zealand faculty chair Kate Allan works in an Auckland hospital but is at home with Covid-19 this week.

Omicron was creating "incredibly significant" staff shortages every day, including three senior doctors at her hospital, she said.

But nursing was where hospitals were feeling it most, Allan said.

That was because of existing shortages, made worse by the fact that nurses either have Covid-19 or are caring for children or family members who do so could not come to work.

Departments were particularly missing senior nurses, who were critical to two key parts of emergency departments - triage and resuscitation.

Combined with doctors and other members of the health team, their absences had a significant impact, Allan said.

"It means there are longer waits for people, people get angrier."

Other parts of the hospitals are pitching in to help and staff are often working overtime to help ease the problem, she said.

"We just have to work how we can and do the best we can on any given day and get in as much help as we can from outside to help us deliver care safely."

Those who needed care urgently would still get it quickly, but less urgent cases will likely have a longer wait, she said.

She urged people not to put off coming to hospital if they needed to, but if their symptoms were very mild to consider seek help from their GP first.

Allan was sick with cold like symptoms for a week and had one day in bed but was on the mend.

She was looking forward to going back to work knowing she would be immune from the virus for a while.

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