The Whanganui Regional Health Network says the government's mandatory Covid-19 vaccination order has had little impact on primary health care in the region but has created "a great deal of angst" for employees who are unvaccinated.
The government order required health workforce employees or contractors to have had at least their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by 11.59pm on November 15.
The primary health organisation provides essential health care services through 11 practices in Whanganui and rural communities, including Raetihi, Taihape, Bulls and Waverley.
One employee was stood down or lost their job after failing to comply with the vaccination order.
Network chief executive Judith MacDonald refused to confirm whether the employee had been stood down or had lost their job, the nature of their role or which clinic they worked for.
She said another person "chose not to be vaccinated and walked away" from one of the network's contracted providers.
All staff were expected to support the country's vaccination strategy, she said.
"The process created a great deal of angst for people [who] had strong views about the vaccine but [were] required to provide for their families, so therefore had to get vaccinated.
"I don't think we should underestimate the emotionally challenging time these people experienced in the journey to get vaccinated."
MacDonald last week refuted claims from community leaders in Raetihi that the town's full-time GP had resigned, saying the doctor was still employed by the regional health network as of last week. Ruapehu Health, which runs the clinic in Raetihi, said the doctor was on leave.
MacDonald declined to comment further on the claims, except to say GP services were still available at the practice.
"The health and wellbeing of all of my staff is of the utmost importance and it is for this reason I am not willing to discuss or disclose any information regarding the vaccination status of any of my employees.
"What I can say is [the Whanganui Regional Health Network] is compliant with the legislation and the mandate the Government required us all to deliver on."
Her concern was to protect privacy, she said.
"Small numbers in small communities make it easy to identify individuals. I consider I have a responsibility to protect individuals' privacy, as people may choose to continue to live in these communities post their decision.
"Individuals may have personal health issues which they do not wish the media or wider audience to be aware of and therefore I am protecting the sensitivity of information they have shared with me as the employer.
"I would like to be treated that way if it had been me, so just affording them the same as I would have wanted."
MacDonald said she did not take seriously "a wave of comments which there is no evidence for" in the Ruapehu community. She said there had been no formal complaint regarding Covid-19 vaccination advice or provision at Ruapehu Health or any network practice.
Ruapehu Health was a small general practice service that "punches above its weight regarding being available for their communities", she said.
It has 3608 enrolled patients, of whom 43.9 per cent are Māori, with 38 per cent of the population described by the health system as being at the highest level of social deprivation (quintile 5), with another 37.5 per cent at quintile 4.
Since the departure in 2018 of the solo GP practice owner Dr Jim Corbett, the WRHN had supported the practice to grow its workforce and strive for a high standard of clinical practice.
"This has resulted in the growth and experience of the nursing team, the establishment of a counsellor operating out of the practice, the implementation of a health coach and health improvement practitioner and the general practitioners being supported in a clinical model where the doctor works alongside registered nurses," MacDonald said.
Raetihi has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, and the Ruapehu district overall is one of the least vaccinated regions.
"It is noted that Ruapehu vaccination rates are not quite as high as we would like them to be, but we hope that those who remain hesitant continue to give high priority to being vaccinated for Covid-19 to keep them and their whānau safe," MacDonald said.
"Ngāti Rangi teams and Ruapehu Health teams continue to offer vaccination in the Ruapehu communities."