New Zealand's largest nurses union has revealed alarming reports of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) running low at frontline medical centres.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) sent out a statement today saying it was concerned for the wellbeing of nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants working on the frontline due to the lack of PPE stock available.
"We are already hearing alarming reports that PPE supplies in primary care, such as masks, are running low or being drip-fed," NZNO boss Kerri Nuku said.
She said the organisation was particularly concerned for its members who were working on the frontline - mainly at medical centres, emergency clinics and testing stations - against Covid as they were the most exposed and least protected.
"These are among the most essential of essential workers because they help keep people out of hospital. Yet in terms of equipping them, we seem to be in pretty much the same place as this time last year."
Nuku said the organisation was also worried the approach to the virus had not been updated after it was discovered the delta variant was airborne, which means it's much more contagious.
"Current guidelines need an urgent review."
Nuku said nursing staff in all sectors would be dealing with the emotional toll the renewed risk of contracting the virus will place upon themselves and their family and whānau.
"We know some nurses are struggling to come to terms with what is being asked of them. Even those of us locked safely away in our homes are anxious and we don't have to go to a workplace where we face the virus every day."
Nurses in both hospitals and primary care remain chronically understaffed, Nuku said.
With nurses leaving to take roles at MIQ vaccination centres and the border remaining closed to international staff, those that were left working in the wards were under added strain.
Nuku said nurses were exhausted and didn't have a lot to give right now, and urged the public to get behind them and show their support whenever and however they could.
Meanwhile, two other unions - Doctors' Association and the APEX Union, which represent 8000 frontline healthcare workers - were calling for immediate pod rostering for all its essential staff.
"Pod" or "bubble" rostering means staff work in isolated teams and don't have contact with other healthcare workers, and if one team member becomes unwell that pod was stood down and another pod takes up the roster gap.
National secretary for both unions, Deborah Powell, said this system had been proven to work in Singapore during the SARS 2003 outbreak and was used widely during the NZ lockdown early last year.
"'Pod' rostering significantly limits the number of health workers who could be unnecessarily exposed to Covid or required to be stood down as a close contact of a Covid positive staff member, patient or community case," Powell said.