Wed, Nov 24, 2021 10:00 AM

Patient care crucial

Protesters outside Wairau Hospital last week. Photo: Matt Brown.

Paula Hulburt

Medical and surgical wards at Wairau Hospital have been hit hardest by unvaccinated staff being stood down.

Sixteen staff have had to abandon their roles after the government introduced a mandate for all frontline workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

But contingency plans put in place before the deadline mean there has been no immediate effect on care and recruitment is ongoing.

Chief Executive Nelson Marlborough Health Lexie O’Shea says 87 staff have been stood down in Nelson and Tasman and 16 in Marlborough.

She says there has been time to prepare for the stand-downs which affect both hospital and community-based employees in full-time part-time and casual roles.

“This is an unprecedented situation that we are trying to support staff through.

“It’s difficult to describe the effects on staff as a whole – everyone handles change in a different way.

‘Healthcare workers typically put patients first so many will be focussed on continuing to do their job as best they can – it’s our job as employer to support them to do this and that includes supporting them through changes like this,” Lexie says.

The Covid-19 vaccine mandate came into effect for healthcare workers and teachers earlier in the month

Nelson Marlborough along with Taranaki, West Coast and Northland DHBs have the highest per cent of unvaccinated staff at four per cent.

Lead DHB chief executive Rosemary Clements says DHBs have actively encouraged all staff to become vaccinated throughout this year and have been pleased with the high vaccination rates achieved across the DHB total staff of approximately 80,000.

Of the 80,000 staff, 1309 have been stood down across the country.

Lexie says areas where less than three staff have been stood-down are not included – to protect the privacy of those individuals who might be identified in small numbers.

The no jab no job policy saw about 60 protesters picket the hospital last Monday.