Infection fears at MIQs

December 1, 2020

Nurses working in Auckland’s managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities are being declined Christmas leave due to ongoing staff shortages, says an NZNO organiser.

Sharleen Rapoto
Sharleen Rapoto
Organiser Sharleen Rapoto has been in regular contact with nursing staff at Auckland’s 18 MIQ facilities, and said rostering was “atrocious”, particularly heading into Christmas, as there was nobody to cover the shifts.

“Really, some people just want to have a break, but have been declined leave.”

The region’s district health boards (DHBs) were having enough trouble staffing their hospitals, let alone the MIQ, Rapoto told Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand.

Several nurses also had fears about infection prevention and control breaches by non-health professionals such as New Zealand Defence Force security staff. “They’re leaving masks lying around, not using sanitiser – and these are the guys doing the transfers, taking luggage and escorting guests,” Rapoto said.

NZNO acting associate professional services manager Kate Weston agreed it was challenging to staff Auckland’s many MIQ facilities. “Pod” rostering could help. This is where teams worked in the same facility over an extended period with built-in leave, wraparound packages with professional development as well as pay incentives.

NZNO also wanted to see N95 masks recommended for use in all MIQ facilities, not just those with probable or positive cases of COVID-19, Weston said.

“Why take the risk? The stakes are too high. We need to consider everyone coming into managed isolation facilities infectious, rather than not, and it’s the other way around at the moment.”

Ministry of Health (MoH) guidelines updated in November recommend masks be used when two-metre distancing “cannot be maintained from a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19”, such as when care or checks are needed.

But NZNO wanted to treat every person in managed isolation facilities as high, rather than low risk, Weston said, citing Pakistan’s cricket team, 8 members of which had so far tested positive for COVID-19 after previously testing negative.

While PPE availability and use remained a “mixed bag” across Auckland’s facilities, Rapoto praised the Crowne Plaza for its on-site COVID-19 testing and N95 mask supply.