Coronavirus: Ministry of Health clamps down as nurses flit between managed isolation facilities, hospital wards

Health bosses are clamping down after discovering nurses are working in isolation hotels one day, and then returning to hospital wards or emergency departments the next. 

The nurses are moonlighting on their days off, testing returning Kiwis in Auckland and Wellington.

It's a situation some staff at Wellington Hospital are describing as "insane".

The Grand Mecure in Wellington is one of the capital's isolation hotels. Nurses have been working there on their days off, then returning to hospital wards. 

"Everyone [senior staff] thought it was insane," a hospital staff member told Newshub. "It just doesn't seem like a sensible way to be organising it, and it's frustrating to be short-staffed."

Even a nursing advocacy group thinks there are risks of cross-infection. 

"Nothing is 100 percent. And so if someone did contract it and take it to vulnerable patients in another area, that would be disastrous," said Nurses Society of New Zealand Director, David Wills.

A Wellington Hospital insider told Newshub there were issues with staff being unwell on Monday this week. 

"It was a really bad day to be short-staffed. We had a big list of acute surgeries," they said.

The DHB says "we are not aware of staff shortages" related to managed isolation and testing of nurses. However it is trying to put an end to mixing staff, saying it's working on recruiting a dedicated managed isolation workforce. 

"There should be a dedicated team doing that sort of work - both in the managed isolation facilities, the quarantine facilities and the border work," said Wills.

Double shifts are not just happening in Wellington. Nurses at Auckland Hospital have also been testing overseas returnees and then working shifts at the emergency department. 

"It's certainly something both the Minister of Health and I are aware of and are taking a great deal of interest in," minister in charge of managed isolation facilities Megan Woods said.

Newshub has seen correspondence from Woods' office which states "PPE is not a requirement for staff working in managed isolation at all times".

National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says that's "that's a surprise, that's not good and that needs to be tightened up".

The Government says nurses must wear a mask if they're coming within two metres of a returnee. 

Dr Reti says he's also learned that the day three test in managed isolation for recent overseas returnees is not compulsory.

"This is building to a bad conclusion," he told Newshub. 

But the Health Minister says you can't avoid the final day 12 test, and a refusal at that point would mean you'd be held for even longer in isolation.