The Government is poised to announce some new measures to protect front line health workers today as some nurses threaten to stop working fearing a lack of equipment will expose them to the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Several nurses have contacted the Herald following a report yesterday that healthcare workers are being told not to wear masks while they work, and surgical masks were being kept away from nurses under lock and key.
Some said they were planning to take extended sick leave, others said they may leave their jobs and at least one at Auckland Hospital is understood to have tendered her resignation yesterday.
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said the matter on personal protection equipment (PPE) was expected to be addressed at the media stand up this afternoon.
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It was currently making a list prioritising who should have access to PPE based on risk of exposure to Covid-19 which would include health settings both in primary and secondary care.
"Once the advice is finalised we will advise the health sector and make it available on our website," the spokeswoman said.
It was also looking into a process to distribute masks to essential workers who have contact with people, for example supermarket workers.
A nurse at North Shore Hospital said she felt they should be treated at least in the same level as police officers.
"Police are being issued with N95 protective masks, as well as pharmacists, why are nurses not allowed to wear them," said the nurse, who did not want to be named.
"We may not be working with confirmed Covid-19 positive, but we are working with patients who may not know they have coronavirus."
Another, who works at Waitakere Hospital said she was concerned that there was no clear policy about PPE and who gets to wear them.
"We are worried that the patients we are caring for might turn to be tested positive at some point," she said.
"Masks will not just protect us, but also the patients."
Another nurse said several of her colleagues had been calling in sick because of concerns over unsafe practice, and she too may consider stopping work if this was not urgently addressed.
"Some nurses are thinking of resigning if they aren't allowed to wear mask at work," she said.
The Herald understands a nurse who was interviewed for an earlier story over the issue tendered her resignation yesterday.
On Wednesday night the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) also called for all nurses to be given protective equipment.
The union was meeting daily with DHBs to address issues including shortages of PPE.