Nurses treating vulnerable patients in Auckland EDs have also been working lucrative shifts at managed quarantine hotels - sparking warnings from a nurses' union.

Nurses Society of New Zealand (NSNZ) has been warning its 5500 members against working for more than one employer due to the risk of Covid-19 infection and has raised concerns with all three District Health Boards in Auckland.

It comes months after Waitakere Hospital changed its protocols due to transmission concerns about treating both Covid-19 patients and people on different wards.

National Party health spokesman Shane Reti has slammed the Government for allowing this to happen, saying it's "completely unacceptable" and was calling for it to end urgently.


Minister of Health Chris Hipkins said he had already had discussions about this issue and was seeking further advice.

"Nurses working in managed isolation and quarantine facilities are skilled professionals who understand infection control and are using all the appropriate PPE," Hipkins said.

"However, we are constantly reviewing policies and procedures to ensure everything is being done to keep New Zealanders safe."

However, the Ministry of Health is defending the moonlighting, saying the safety procedures at managed quarantine hotels are robust and sufficient.

"This is both legal and well managed within the sector," a ministry spokesperson said.

When asked how many nurses it was aware of working in EDs and managed quarantine facilities, it said "some" and wouldn't comment further.

The Herald understands nurses working at managed quarantine hotels were paid about $500 a shift by Government-partnered company Geneva Healthcare.

Nurses unions wouldn't comment on how much its members were being paid but said it was a "good earner for them".


It's unknown if hospital staff have been working at Jet Park where positive Covid-19 cases are staying.

A spokesperson for all Auckland DHBs (including Waitematā, Auckland and Counties Manukau) said they encouraged staff to keep their managers informed of any work they do outside of our DHBs so that we can support them to remain safe.

"Nurses working in our EDs are also a group who are highly trained in infection prevention and control. We routinely care for patients with infectious diseases through our EDs and are confident measures are in place to protect the safety of our patients, staff and whānau.

"There have been no known instances in Auckland of a DHB worker infecting a patient at any time during the pandemic in the hospital setting."

David Wills, director of NSNZ, said the union had been approached by a handful of members who were working in managed isolation or quarantine facilities, as well as working for DHBs, including in EDs.

"Our advice to such members has been that they must notify their managers in their respective DHB that they are working in managed isolation," Wills said.


"Moreover that generally they should not be working in both roles."

He said they had sent out dozens of notices to their members warning them against working for two employers given the risk of Covid-19 infection.

"Since March the union had seen many cases of members being required to stop working for more than one employer because of Covid-19 control measures.

"Now that we are in Covid-19 level 1, and there is no community transmission, this may no longer be an absolute necessity - except for nurses actually working in high-risk areas and in roles in managed isolation, quarantine, border roles and testing.

"Case-by-case consideration should be appropriate."

Wills said there were also occasions earlier in the year where the union raised this matter with senior nurse managers in DHBs.

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A spokesman for another union, New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), said they were unable to comment on the issue at present.


A Ministry of Health spokesperson confirmed the ministry was aware that some nurses had been working at managed isolation facilities, via a contract agency, and at local DHBs.

But they were satisfied that no one was being put in danger.

The spokesperson said nurses working at managed isolation facilities are provided with guidance on procedures, including how to reduce risk of transmission between workplaces and training in PPE and infection control.

"These nurses are trained professionals, well versed in infection prevention and control. And in the Covid-19 context they have access to appropriate PPE, ensure appropriate physical distancing and follow sound hand hygiene practices.

"They also have regular health checks and are offered testing for Covid-19, even if they are not symptomatic. The health and safety of nurses is a priority."

A clinical governance group was overseeing all of these matters and it continues to monitor the issue, the spokesperson said.


"The group, which includes representatives of DHBs, work together with isolation/quarantine facilities to review and update guidance, consider relevant safety issues and have the authority to make any recommendations for change if required."

Reti said he was unconvinced it was a robust system and that the ministry could ensure nurses and those they came in contact with were not being put at risk.

"If you are an ED nurse, oh boy, good luck trying to contact trace some of the folks who have come through ED.

"If we are going to go down this path, for goodness sake let's at least say not ED. Put them in the wards where it's highly likely to trace if things go wrong.

"I understand some nurses may need income, I get that and maybe there are ways they can still do both but we need to make sure our system is tighter."

He said he would be raising his concerns with Health Minister Chris Hipkins and offering some advice.


Geneva Healthcare did not respond to a request for comment from the Herald. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website