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Medical staff threaten to walk off job if NZ's medical supplies aren't dispensed to those in need

Medical staff are threatening to walk off the job if the country's medical supplies are not dispensed to those in need.

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The Ministry of Health says there's enough personal protective equipment and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says another four million masks will be issued to workers. Source: 1 NEWS

The Ministry of Health says there's enough personal protective equipment and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says another four million masks will be issued to workers.

Midwife Marie Woolsey is one of those workers, having delivered more than 600 babies, but in 20 years of service she's never felt so vulnerable.

"We have some gear, but not enough for every midwife at this point,” Ms Woolsey said.

She says a 12-hour labour may require at least four complete changes of protective clothing.

“I would need 12 masks, innumerable number of gloves and four coveralls to wear to protect myself,” she said.

There are claims other medical practitioners are refusing to work until they have the right equipment.

“As I've said over the last few weeks, we have a national pandemic supply of PPE and individual DHB's also have their own dedicated supplies,” Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

That includes 18 million masks, nearly three million pairs of gloves and two million gowns, but the problem is getting those supplies to frontline staff.

“The ministry's currently exploring all existing and a range of new avenues to ensure that we maintain our stock and we have a range of very productive conversations happening,” Dr Bloomfield said.

"We are also working with a Whanganui-based manufacturer of masks who helpfully produce 60,000 masks a day and 45,000 N95 masks, used by our health workers.

"We are actively assisting them with distribution logistics."

There's another threat to supply, examples of desperate people siphoning sanitiser from district health boards and stealing masks and protective suits.

"We think it’s mainly driven through fear and anxiety about all of us needing protective equipment, but a lot of those specialist bits of equipment like N95 masks and other things are actually for specific circumstances and if we're just out and about we don't need them,” ASMS executive director Sarah Dalton said.

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board says protective equipment is being prioritised to midwives and those dealing people with symptoms, however it says the risk to midwives has remained low to this point.

Meanwhile the Bay of Plenty community is providing boot-loads of vital protective equipment for midwives.

These midwives are thankful for the support.

"It brought us tears to see our community coming together, the way communities come together in situations like this,” Ms Woolsey said.