Union claims Waikato Hospital nurses who caught COVID-19 were told to remove PPE

The nurses have made complaints to the Waikato DHB.
The nurses have made complaints to the Waikato DHB. Photo credit: Getty Images

The union representing nurses has laid a complaint with the Waikato DHB claiming two nurses, who now have COVID-19, were stopped from wearing PPE by hospital management.

The organisation's president, Kerri Nuku, says a patient came on to their ward with respiratory symptoms, so nurses put masks and gowns on, but were then told by management to take them off "because it wasn’t necessary".

The patient was not tested for COVID-19 and was later discharged.

Two nurses who had interactions with the patient have since been confirmed to have COVID-19.

Mrs Nuku says nurses have told her the patient had a family member visiting them who had been in contact with a confirmed case.

The nurses have made complaints to the Waikato DHB.

A Waikato DHB spokesperson told Newshub 80 staff members have been stood down after the positive results. 

“We have taken a conservative approach to immediately stand down approximately 80 people. As each day progresses and more information comes to hand we will be able to bring people back to work as we rule out risk factors.”

A spokesperson said the Waikato DHB "had not received any formal complaint from the NZNO". 

"We are aware of the comments made to media tonight. We have requested details around this allegation to enable us to investigate and determine its validity."

In a statement on Friday, the DHB said it has very clear policies and protocols for the use of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

"The guidance for appropriate use of PPE is based on research and evidence and does not give consideration to stock levels," it read. 

"The DHB strongly refutes any suggestion that PPE is being restricted and staff prevented from accessing masks and other protective equipment.  

"Masks are available in all areas of the hospital and communications have previously been released to staff notifying them of the availability and use.

"The DHB has gone beyond best practice and provided PPE in areas considered very low risk and has encouraged and invested in significant alternate ways of working with patients and staff to avoid person to person physical contact such as Telehealth and videoconferencing."