Coronavirus: Nurse at MIQ facility says no access to N-95 masks puts NZ at risk of another community outbreak

A nurse with 20 years experience on the job - who is now working in managed isolation - says it's unacceptable that health workers still don't have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need. 

She told Newshub not having N-95 masks is putting the wider community at risk, and felt it was important to speak out in the interests of her colleagues and the country.  

She's highly skilled, and wants to help, but says the current predicament puts everyone at risk. 

"The big issue is actually the risk of COVID being picked up by nurses and being transmitted into the community," she said.

She wears a mask at work - the standard-issue blue surgical one - but is not provided with an N-95, a more robust mask with better seals, in any situation.

That means there's huge risk if staff attend a medical emergency, like a guest suffering cardiac arrest, and need to enter their room. 

"It's a really intolerable position, actually," she explained.

"[We're] significantly exposed to COVID, and yet we don't have any N-95 masks if we have to do CPR on somebody… I've been told it's an individual choice if you respond or not, and I think it's an awful position to put nurses in."

The Ministry of Health told Newshub it currently has over 10 million N-95 masks in stock. It says it's still waiting on advice from its technical advisory group about whether N-95s should be used, by who, and under what circumstances.

Those decisions will be made in the "coming days", the ministry says - but this nurse wonders why it's taking so long.

"I've been asking for it since I was employed by Counties Manukau DHB - but even before that I was asking for them," she said, adding that it's been in excess of eight weeks since she first made her request.

"I'm disappointed actually that they're not seeing the gravity of it. Well, that's what it feels like."

Her plea is for immediate action for ready access to these masks so she, her colleagues and the community can feel safe. 

"Please give us what we want to do this job."