The National Party has raised concerns about how a "stretched" intensive care unit at Hawke's Bay Hospital would cope in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak.
Deputy leader and health spokesman Dr Shane Reti on Friday released a public statement to note there had been "high" occupancy rates for ICU beds across the country during the current Delta outbreak in NZ.
"The new location of interest announced in Hawke's Bay is particularly alarming given that DHB has the highest ICU occupancy rate, with full capacity 36 per cent of the time over the current outbreak," Reti said.
Data sent to Reti through parliamentary questions shows the region's intensive care (ICU) occupancy percentage reached capacity 11 times between August 24 and September 13, and exceeded it three times.
This meant the Hawke's Bay District Health Board reached ICU capacity 14 of the 39 days reported in the data - or 36 per cent - the most in the country, with Wairarapa DHB just behind at 34 per cent.
A Ministry of Health spokesman said Hawke's Bay District Health Board was currently undergoing infrastructure work that has reduced its critical care capacity to 11 beds.
"The DHB works closely with its regional tertiary hospital in Wellington and will transfer patients based on clinical circumstances as necessary. Wellington ICU staff also provide support and advice in respect of patient management," the spokesman said.
He said the DHB has identified several areas within the hospital that can be used in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak and will also co-ordinate with the central region facilities.
"The region has around 45 resourced critical-care beds, but has identified it can surge to over 100 spaces. The DHBs have been training non-ICU staff to work under supervision to assist in managing Covid patients."
A recently updated September pandemic paper, called the HBDHB Covid-19 resurgence plan, detailed how Hawke's Bay DHB would manage an outbreak in the region.
In the hypothetical scenario of 400 community cases, the DHB estimates it will need an additional 50 staff from the Public Health Unit for case and contact tracing.
The plan states elective surgeries would be cancelled and the emergency department would also be split into "hot and cold" patients - those who presented with Covid symptoms and patients who didn't.
The hospital would create a separate isolation ward, a split emergency department and a Covid ICU would be created, the plan states.
There would be regular testing of staff in "hot areas" and rapid testing with less than two-hour turnaround "will be required" to maintain differentiation of patients in ED, the plan says.
Other scenarios the DHB has planned for include one community case, 50 community cases and 200 community cases with two to six people in ICU, and two to 10 in the ward.
A spokeswoman at Health Minister Andrew Little's office said the Government's priority remained keeping people out of ICU.
"The best way to do this is by encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.
"For those who do require hospital care, we have increased the number of ICU beds [in NZ] and can effectively boost the number to 550 if we need to."
Reti said Little kept repeating that NZ had 340 standing ICU beds, but the National MP said the New Zealand Society of Intensive Care says there are only 186.
The spokeswoman for Little said medical experts in countries that had had a much worse experience of Covid-19 than New Zealand had advised NZ that "the surge-trained workforce working under supervision is capable of caring for Covid patients".
The Ministry of Health has also been approached for comment.