Oversight of visitors at New Zealand’s largest hospital is in disarray and staff concerns around the risk of catching Covid-19 have not been taken seriously, an Auckland City Hospital nurse claims.
The concerns were revealed to 1News as the New Zealand Nurses Union and the Auckland DHB head into mediation tomorrow under an urgent order from the Employment Relations Authority to resolve the visiting policy.
Criticism continues to mount at the hospital after the policy was revised on Thursday, with the number of visitors being halved to one visitor per patient each day.
While Auckland City Hospital staff have been warned against speaking to the media about their concerns, some have chosen not to remain silent about its now controversial visitor policy.
“People aren't going by the rules. They’re coming up shortly one after the other so they can get through, so they're screening downstairs, but they've got no way of tracking who's already on the ward, who's come off the ward,” one nurse, who did not wish to be identified, claimed.
She says visitors aren’t complying with the new one visitor rule or being properly monitored.
“There's not enough staff to manage it. It would take probably three extra nurses a shift just to be managing visitors, which we don't have,” they said.
The nurses' union has now taken legal action over the policy, forcing the Auckland DHB into urgent mediation tomorrow.
"There's extreme urgency because they are essential workers. They are essential to society at the moment - it is essential that they keep working,” employment specialist Catherine Stewart said.
Nurses and resident doctors are calling for visits only on compassionate grounds - a policy which is already being enforced at other Auckland hospitals.
“In the circumstances we face at the moment, it is extremely important and urgent that this is resolved,” Stewart added.
Without it, nursing advocates fear the arrival of the Delta variant is inevitable.
“They've been lucky, haven't they? We would rather they were cautious than lucky,” New Zealand Nurses Organisation industrial adviser David Wait said.
Mediation has been called a positive step forward by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
“One of the best things we can do is listen to the feedback of those who are at the frontline and so we should not shy away from that. This will be a valuable process for us to make sure that we have all of our settings right,” she said.
The DHB told 1News visitors are tracked through an electronic system which checks in all visitors at the entrance. Patients are allowed to pre-register two visitors, but only one is allowed in per day.
“You can change the rules on paper as much as you like but unless you're changing the screening process it's just a tick box, effectively,” the unidentified nurse said.