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Serious lessons from Waitakere Hospital COVID-19 report

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 13 May 2020

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says it welcomes the incident review report released today by Waitematā District Health Board (DHB) into COVID-19 Staff infections at Waitakere Hospital during April.

Seven nurses contracted the virus at the hospital during April, one of whom was admitted to hospital.

NZNO Associate Professional Services Manager Kate Weston thanked the DHB for acknowledging the exemplary care provided by the nurses and for their apology to those nurses and their whānau.

“This will go some way to rebuilding their relationship with their employer,” she said.

However, Ms Weston said the report’s recommendations highlight a number of serious concerns and some valuable lessons about practice going forward.

“Health and safety concerns continue with a real lack of clarity around patient flow and rostering to properly eliminate exposure risk, case definitions and ongoing PPE access issues.

“The DHB has put these nurses and their whānau at an unacceptable risk and we’re concerned lessons weren’t learned from the larger clusters in Waitemata and Rosewood/Burwood.”

Ms Weston also said a major concern arising from the report is that workplace exposure to COVID-19 is not recognised as a reportable event to Worksafe.

“NZNO and other unions are very concerned that health workers aren’t afforded that level of investigation from this external body and regulator when things related to safety go wrong in workplace and someone is hospitalised.”

She said, however, that NZNO is pleased the DHB has been in contact with affected staff to check on their wellbeing.  NZNO has also supporting the nurses who had been in contact.

“Our thoughts are with the nurse who was hospitalised with hopes for a full recovery. They are also with those other staff unwell and at home, especially where other members of their household were exposed.”

An NZNO delegate was part of the review panel that produced the report and Ms Weston said NZNO is keen to provide part of the oversight as the report’s recommendations are implemented.

“There is an urgent need to implement the recommendations immediately to provide clarity, and build confidence for staff and the public as we move from Level 3 to Level 2, which involves a real ‘unknown’ in terms of another COVID-19 spike.”


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

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