Coronavirus: PPE still not available to some nurses at Burwood Hospital, site of six COVID-19 deaths

Newshub has obtained more evidence of the gulf between the Ministry of Health and nurses about what's happening on the frontline with masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).

An audio recording between a charge nurse and staff member reveals the reality of the frustration heath workers face in their efforts to wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus.

"If you are telling me that you are insisting on wearing a mask at work, I don't know what to say - we are stopping other people doing that," the nurse can be heard telling the staff member.

"We are directed that staff can't wear masks."

Newshub has agreed not to say which department or hospital the staff member is employed at.

The Ministry has repeatedly stated it has plenty of PPE, although it's clear the advice being passed to the ranks is remarkably different.

"It is a myth that we have plenty. We do not have plenty," the nurse can be heard saying in another part of the recording.

These concerns are not isolated to just one hospital; a nurse at Burwood Hospital, for instance - where six of New Zealand's nine COVID-19 deaths have occured - says staff even on the COVID-19 ward do not have adequate protection.

They're on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis and want to do all they can to protect themselves and their patients, but requests for masks are being blocked by their managers. 

"The PPE provided for staff in the COVID-19 ward isn't adequate at all," the nurse told Newshub.

"We have plastic glasses, nothing to cover our hair or ears or shoes. And due to the way it has been set up, we are walking our contaminated shoes through areas that the public have access to". 

Speaking to media on Tuesday, the Director-General of Health said while he couldn't speak about the specific example, he would be happy to look into it.

"What I am confident about is that staff will have access to PPE they need depending on the role they're playing," Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

The Nurses Organisation says that is not the case.

The organisation's president Kerri Nuku says she spoke to a nurse on Tuesday who'd been spat on by a possible COVID-19 patient, and had neither a face shield nor a change of gown. 

"It's not okay, three weeks on, to still be asking for PPE gear," she said.

"If you're a politician, would you feel safe enough? Then go on and wash it off and then go on to the next patient in the same gown because rationalisation has said you can't have more than this on that one shift?"

Nuku says all health workers should have it - and it's clear distribution isn't working. 

"Somebody needs to take responsibility for unblocking that problem and own it," Nuku said.

Only then, she says, can all staff truly feel safe.

Michael Morrah is Newshub’s Investigations Reporter and Pacific Correspondent and has been a broadcast journalist for 17 years.

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