DHBs accused of charging doctors for personal protective gear amidst COVID-19 outbreak

A group representing doctors say it's "absolutely unacceptable" and "unethical" that some DHBs are charging doctors for personal protective equipment (PPE) in the midst of New Zealand's coronavirus response. 

Personal protective gear is the gloves, gowns and masks GPs need to properly and safely check patients with COVID-19 symptoms. 

Ministry of Health director-general Dr Ashley Bloomfield told a media conference today all GP clinics now had the equipment. 

But New Zealand Medical Association GP Committee chair Dr Jan White told Newshub her clinic had not seen any supplies from either the DHB or the Ministry of Health. 

She says her team had to source their own safety gear and said some DHBs were charging doctors for the equipment. 

"I think it's absolutely unacceptable and I think I would go as far as to say it's unethical in the situation that we're in for a DHB to charge general practice for gear to protect themselves, their staff and their patients," Dr White told Newshub. 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said it had an extra 18 million masks as part of what it called a "strategic national reserve supply". 

The ministry said supporting GPs, and ensuring they had PPE, was its "number one priority".  

But Dr White disputes this. She said she's had "no information" about when practices can expect extra supplies.

She said it was frustrating and GPs felt "out of the loop". 

Newshub spoke to two other GP clinics today, who were also critical of the Ministry of Health's response and communication. 

Neither had enough equipment and when they asked for more, they were told they'd have to wait for extra as it was on backorder. 

Meanwhile, Pharmac says doctors will need to limit paracetamol prescriptions after the factory that makes the pain killer in China has closed due to coronavirus. 

"The temporary limits are for paracetamol prescribed to you by a health professional, they don't apply to paracetamol that you can purchase yourself without a prescription," Pharmac's director of operations Lisa Williams said. 

She said there's currently enough stocks in New Zealand to meet the next four months of supply. 

The Ministry of Health confirmed today a fourth person, who'd been in northern Italy, tested positive for the virus.

He attended last Friday's Tool concert at Spark Arena, possibly coming into contact with hundreds of concertgoers. 

The Ministry of Health says the individual was in the standing area of the gig, but any risk of passing the virus on was low. 

It advised people who attended the gig, and were in the general admission standing area, to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19.

If you have more information email michaelmorrah@mediaworks.co.nz.