By Rowan Quinn of RNZ
Auckland’s hospitals are asking others around the country to send intensive care nurses to help them cope with the Covid outbreak.
The call-out went out last night after the number of people in ICU across the region reached eight, with three of them on ventilators.
There are 32 patients in hospital.
The highly specialised nurses provide round-the-clock, one-on-one care, and without them patients cannot be moved into intensive care.
It was estimated 30 nurses with ICU training were needed in Auckland to help in the outbreak, with another 30 to help in managed isolation facilities.
College of Critical Care Nurses chair Tania Mitchell said the country’s intensive care units often work together and support each other.
But there was a limited pool of nurses and morale was low, she said.
“Without a trained nurse, intensive care beds could not be used,” she said
“There has been a large increase in the equipment needed to look after an ICU patient in New Zealand since we have been preparing for an outbreak of Covid, but not a similar increase in trained staff to care for these patients,” she said.
Nurses Organisation spokesperson Kate Weston told Checkpoint the outbreak had hit a time when nurses were already under great pressure.
There were already big staff shortages.
Nurses had been working hard to do Covid testing and vaccinations in the past few months as well as dealing with winter illness outbreaks, she said.
“So it is putting a lot of pressure on the workforce who came in to this particular Delta outbreak with not much left in the tank,” she said.
They would be used for non-Covid work to free up the existing nurses to concentrate on Covid patients, she said.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Checkpoint 30 more nurses were needed to help with managed isolation facilities.
Part of the DHBs’ surge plans was to move staff around if needed and everyone was happy to chip in to help, he said.
“Everybody in the health system acknowledges that Auckland is doing some of the heavy lifting here and we need to support them to be successful if we want to avoid this becoming a potentially bigger outbreak that then ends up spreading around the rest of the country,” he said.
The situation would be much worse if the country had not gone into lockdown, he said.
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