Coronavirus: North Shore Hospital nurses allegedly told to 'remove masks' by management so patients aren't scared

North Shore Hospital nurses claim that DHB management instructed them to remove their face masks so they didn't scare any patients.

Three nurses from the hospital contacted Newshub to raise concerns about their boss' approach to personal protective equipment (PPE).

In the emails, one nurse says her manager "told staff twice to remove masks as it may alarm the patients". Another nurse says they are "discouraged in the use of masks as it may scare the patients".

A third North Shore Hospital nurse says the PPE is "locked in a store cupboard". The worker says she's nervous to ask for a mask because she's afraid of "being bullied, being labelled as overly anxious and rocking the boat".

The allegations follow Health Minister David Clark's rapid stocktake and review of PPE distribution to community health workers. Now he says the flow of gear to places like GP clinics is "appropriate".

"Progress is being made in addressing these things. The system is learning. I'm going to be seeking an ongoing assurance about that," Clark says. However, that review related just to community health providers, not hospitals. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says bullying isn't appropriate in the workplace or any setting.

"That sounds like an issue specifically for the District Health Board to follow up."

The Waitemata DHB deputy CEO Dr Andrew Brant says it has a "zero-tolerance approach to bullying".

He says it made 236,000 masks available to staff in April - more than other regional DHBs. 

And Dr Brant says claims that staff do not have adequate supplies or access to masks are "incorrect". 

However, New Zealand Resident Doctors Association president Dr Deborah Powell says she's also aware of staff concerns at North Shore Hospital.

"There's a lack of understanding as to why the managers are restricting access to PPE and it is starting to generate a lack of confidence in management," Dr Powell says.

Waitemata DHB says it takes access to PPE seriously and it's setting up a hotline so staff can report any issues.