Auckland Hospital tightens visiting rules but doctors' union wants it to go further

Visitor rules at Auckland Hospital have been tightened following an outcry from staff, patients and unions.

Auckland City Hospital. Source: 1 NEWS

It was allowing two people per patient but that has changed to just one person for a maximum of two hours.

Auckland Hospital is also making it clearer to nurses and doctors which managers they could complain to if members of the public were breaching the rules.

Yesterday, the Nurses Union, the NZNO, detailed its horror at hundreds of visitors being allowed to visit Auckland DHB hospitals despite the region being at the highest Covid-19 alert level due to the Delta outbreak.

The union for junior doctors says there should not be any visitors at all, except on compassionate grounds, while the city is in a Level 4 lockdown.

Resident Doctors' Association national secretary Deborah Powell said staff and patients were being put at unnecessary risk.

"We still think that this is a risk that needs to be eliminated, and it's a matter of health and safety. If we can eliminate such risks we should.

"Quite frankly, the situation that we're facing in Middlemore this morning hearing, you know of another patient with Covid who got into an inpatient side of our hospital there, that could easily have been a visitor.

"This is not a risk we should be entertaining at this time."

Asked why Auckland DHB rules were different to Auckland City Hospital, Powell said "that's a really good question, and one that we've asked Auckland".

"We haven't had an answer to that. It's almost like they now just don't want to back down and Auckland Hospital excluded all students, for instance, from the hospital for fear of community transmission of Covid any they continue to allow visitors.

"One of the problems of our current system is that each of these district health boards are sovereign states - that's the term we use for it, they use it themselves.

"Ultimately, the [chief executive] is responsible. Because of our current set-up, actually, [Director-General of Health] Dr Bloomfield can't instruct them."

Doctors were looking forward to a change in the health system, she said.

Powell said all unions were not happy about the risk posed by visitors.

"We are all of one mind here and collectively we have been really working hard with ADHB - they've improved the situation, I'll give them give them that, but it's not gone far enough."