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Auckland quarantine worker's positive Covid-19 test 'disappointing' but 'not surprising' - nurses org

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation says the news an Auckland quarantine worker tested positive for Covid-19 last night "both disappointing and troubling, but not at all surprising". 

Security at a managed isolation facility. Source: 1 NEWS

The individual had most recently been swabbed as part of routine testing at Māngere's Jet Park quarantine facility on Tuesday, November 3, and returned a negative test the next day.

They were tested again after developing symptoms on Thursday, where they returned a positive result, the Ministry of Health said last night.

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It's the third such case of a staff member at an isolation facility testing positive for the virus, after two nurses tested positive earlier this month in Christchurch.

NZNO associate professional services manager Kate Weston said today in a statement that the Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) had failed to address serious systemic problems at Auckland managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities since they took over as the employer for clinical staff at the end of September.

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The New Zealand Nursing Organisation’s Kerri Nuku said the system has failed the health workers. Source: 1 NEWS

"Members tell us there is not consistent access to N95 masks, and that they are not being fit tested for these masks, which is important for their safe use," she said.

"While the DHB say they have been fit testing for the last couple of weeks the DHB could not tell us how many staff had been fit tested or when procedures would be in place to fit test all staff.

"Likewise they have no clear plans in place which will address the short-staffing our members’ report with the urgency required."

Weston said "inadequate access to PPE and poor training in its use" has been a longstanding issue "since this all began, and here we are again."

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The intensive care nurse has criticised the way the Commodore facility is being run. Source: 1 NEWS

"That this is still happening is completely shocking and matter of huge public concern," she said. 

"New Zealand is in a privileged position internationally, but workers protecting our borders are becoming infected because an overwhelmed system cannot cope. More must be done to protect our workers and protect our community."

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New Zealand Nurses Organisation calls for 'urgent review' after two nurses test positive for Covid-19

Weston renewed called for a full and urgent review of how MIQ facilities are run to identify systemic failures "across the board and address them with urgency." 

It comes after NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku called for an urgent review on Wednesday following the discovery of positive cases in Christchurch, which she said shows there is "a failure somewhere along the system".

"While we have two health workers today, who knows what down the track's going to look like so we need to understand right now what are the pressure points."

NZNO is currently in talks with several DHBs, and is also working closely with other Council of Trade Union affiliated unions and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment to develop a Work Participation Agreement.

The agreement will help ensure worker engagement participation and representation for all workers in MIQ facilities around all health and safety matters.

"The different layers of protection we have in place are working together to prevent and manage risks," the Ministry of Health said in today's 1pm statement, where it was confirmed the worker was the only new case of Covid-19 in NZ. 

"Managed isolation workers are regularly tested. As in other recent cases this worker quickly got tested as soon as they became aware of symptoms. The early identification of cases along with rapid contact tracing assists in stopping any spread of the virus.

"We want to acknowledge the important work being done at New Zealand’s managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

"Thanks to our workers, tens of thousands of people have returned from overseas and completed their managed isolation stay safely, before returning to communities.

"We take the safety of our workers and their families, whānau and broader communities very seriously. That’s because the people who work in managed isolation and quarantine facilities do essential work to keep Covid-19 out of Aotearoa."