Nurses sent to help at a rest home hit by Covid-19 also worked hospital shifts - raising further questions about precautions to stop spread of the deadly virus.

Waitematā DHB this week dropped a policy that allowed staff on a ward with Covid-19 patients from St Margaret's aged care home to also work shifts in other areas of Waitakere Hospital, after three nurses caught the virus.

The DHB has now confirmed to the Herald that some staff who helped care for the residents remaining at the St Margaret's facility in Te Atatu also worked shifts at its hospitals.

"Staffing a non-DHB facility on top of our normal obligations was complex and all efforts were made to maintain an exclusive staffing arrangement for the sake of consistency and stability," a spokesman said.


"Some of our staff did work separate shifts at Waitematā DHB, particularly in the early period."

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This approach had been agreed as appropriate by clinical leaders from Auckland and Northland DHBs, the spokesman said, and was taken with precautions including use of personal protective equipment (PPE), physical distancing in the workplace and strict hand hygiene.

St Margaret's notified health authorities of its first case in early April. Later that month nursing staff were sent to the facility to help out, and on April 17 ambulances took the first lot of residents to Waitakere Hospital. Three of that group would later die.

Last week the DHB announced three nurses who worked on the ward where St Margaret's patients were treated had tested positive for Covid-19. The nurses had worked shifts on other wards, despite health and safety representatives raising concerns with management about staff moving between Covid and non-Covid wards.

Waitematā DHB has now changed its policy so nurses caring for Covid-19 patients do not also work in other wards, a change it says was driven by staff feedback and which goes "above and beyond what is advised".

The source of the nurses' infection is being investigated, and findings from an urgent review are due back on Friday. Thirty-six staff are in self-isolation as a precaution. Testing of staff has not returned further positive results.

The DHB spokesman told the Herald that St Margaret's staff who went into isolation after the outbreak had mostly returned to work, and the DHB was providing support as the facility transitioned back to a normal roster. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

"Throughout this time, all staff have been screened for potential symptoms upon entry to St Margaret's and provided with full onsite PPE training. All DHB staff who've left the facility as we scale down our presence have been swabbed and it should be noted that none have tested positive for Covid-19."


There are 44 cases linked to the St Margaret's "cluster", with 23 recovered. Residents with Covid-19 have been moved from Waitakere to North Shore Hospital, which is also run by Waitematā DHB.