Coronavirus: Nurses say staff shortages at Auckland's MIQ facilities 'a shambles', leading to burnout

Two nurses working in Auckland's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) hotels have described staff shortages as "a shambles". 

Both say it's dangerous for health workers and returnees, but that's in stark contrast to how the Health Minister sees it - he says the sites are "sufficiently staffed". 

One senior agency nurse - a mother who's dedicated months to working on the COVID frontline in Auckland MIQ hotels - says she's been treated unfairly and feels unvalued.

"You put your heart and soul into this. And you want to help New Zealand and those that are really vulnerable," she told Newshub.

She wanted to continue doing this but says after the DHB took over as the nurses' employer, the job became untenable. She had to pull out.

"Now, it's just a shambles," she said.

She says there was a pay drop from $55 an hour when working as a contractor to $38 under the DHB, plus other accommodation requests were not met. 

She says nurses have left "in their droves", putting more pressure on those who remain.

"People shouldn't be at the point of burnout and so fatigued that they can't do their job correctly," she said, adding that she thinks it's now at a point where it's dangerous.

But Health Minister Chris Hipkins told Newshub he's been advised that "all shifts are sufficiently and safely staffed".

"That is not true," the nurse said. "I spoke to three different friends last night, and they are still telling there are severe staffing shortages."

Newshub has also learned staff were issued with an email update just yesterday. It states there is a "shortage of nurses across MIQF sites affecting nursing outputs".

Another current managed isolation nurse has told Newshub they're so understaffed, daily face-to-face health, temperature and welfare checks of guests aren't happening at all Auckland facilities. 

The DHB says it's "not aware of any instances where daily health checks are being missed". It told Newshub nurses are getting "standard DHB rates with additional benefits".

A union for the nurses says it's trying to negotiate a better deal.

Kate Weston, Assoc Professional Service Manager NZ Nurses Organisation

"Health care has been done on the cheap," said Kate Weston, Professional Service Manager for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation.

"For the incoming Government - whoever they're going to be - this is a really important issue, and this is where the money needs to be spent."

Compensation for the sacrifices this nurse - and her family - have made.

"We were shunned at certain things because I was a COVID nurse, so you know, there were costs," she said.

Social costs she says should be recognised with fair pay.