Just over 90 nursing staff in Wellington are yet to declare their vaccination status, a little more than a week out from the first jab deadline for healthcare workers.
As at Friday, 91 nurses at Capital and Coast District Health Board (CCDHB) had not disclosed whether or not they were vaccinated – representing nearly 3 per cent of the workforce.
The Government announced last month that health workers must have had their first dose by November 15 and their second by January 1.
New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) Wellington representative Jo Coffey said this added to their uncertainty in planning for Delta in Wellington Regional Hospital - where there were already around 400 nursing vacancies.
"There's 91 not disclosing their vaccination status at the moment, so we're going to lose potentially another 90 staff if they don't get vaccinated," she said.
"It's surprising the number of calls NZNO have had from nurses concerned about the vaccination, and worried about their roles and the future."
The total CCDHB nursing workforce (including midwives) is 3354, meaning nearly 3 per cent of the workforce were not disclosing their vaccination status.
A CCDHB spokesperson said they were working hard to comply with the Government's Covid vaccination order and ensure all workers had received their first dose by 11.59pm on November 15.
"The Order is explicit that no affected person can perform their role from November 16 if they are not vaccinated (subject to a medical exemption or ministerial exception being granted)," they said.
"Healthcare and disability workers have been able to be vaccinated against Covid-19 since March 2021, and DHBs have already achieved high rates of voluntary vaccination so far."
As at October 11, CCDHB reported 91 per cent of all staff – including clinical and non-clinical - had one vaccination and 87 per cent were fully vaccinated.
"Work to ensure staff are vaccinated is ongoing," said the spokesperson.
"Updated information about the vaccination status of staff in each DHB will be provided mid-November."
Coffey said the DHB was working actively with each of the 91 workers not disclosing their vaccination status.
"But we will be losing some," she said.
"There are nurses that want to leave the profession and that don't want to be vaccinated. People might take a break for a year, hoping it blows over."
Some had said they had health issues, but Coffey said getting a medical exemption was not going to be easy for nurses.
There were also limited areas unvaccinated nurses could be deployed to within a hospital, she said.
As part of their "surge" planning for when Delta arrived in the Wellington community, the DHB was planning to increase nursing staff in the waiting room on triage and screening.
Shortly before the Delta outbreak began in August, a Wellington ED nurse told the Herald the emergency department would 'struggle to cope' in the event of a Covid outbreak.
New Zealand's health system has faced nursing shortages throughout the pandemic, with the workforce struggling with the absence of internationally trained nurses.
Wellington Regional Hospital, and particularly the emergency department, had experienced high vacancy throughout winter.
In August Coffey told the Herald ED was recruiting for roughly 70 full-time positions, representing 10 per cent of the workforce.
Eleven nurses resigned within 10 days the month prior, at the same time health and safety complaints were being formally addressed by management.
Coffey also said seven CCDHB nurses had left to work in Australia in the first week of the transtasman bubble in April.
Safe staffing had also been a key concern that drove the nursing profession to strike nationwide earlier this year.
Last month the NZNO accepted an offer from DHBs, following 15 months of negotiation, which included a contractual obligation to enforce safe staffing.