COVID-19: Review of MIQ facilities makes 8 high priority recommendations

A review of New Zealand's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities has made 82 recommendations including eight "high priority" ones. 

The Rapid Assessment Report, which was requested by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, is the first independent assessment of MIQ. 

It was started six months after MIQ began operating when it became clear facilities would be in use for some time. 

In the report, authors Murray Jack and Katherine Corich acknowledged the MIQ system was created with urgency and it was inevitable the organisation, operating model, processes, systems and technology needed to be built alongside day-to-day operations. 

"There were no design concepts or existing infrastructure to facilitate the establishment of a national system of the scale required by the COVID-19 pandemic; everything had to be built from scratch.

"The need for speed meant that quick decisions were required on facilities, systems, and organisation structures. These decisions were made on a 'no regrets' basis, acknowledging the trade-off between speed and fitness for purpose," they noted in the report. 

The high priority recommendations include: 

  1. Strengthening systems and data integrity

  2. Strengthening IT infrastructure

  3. Completing development of a plan to civilianise current New Zealand Defence Force roles

  4. Working with the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards to remedy shortages in health resourcing in Auckland

  5. Reviewing the support function's planned and actual headcount 

  6. Continuing with the rapid roll-out of the National Planning Function

  7. Strengthening Iwi-Māori partnerships in all regions

  8. Formalising MIQ's information gathering powers in the COVID-19 Health System Response Act and completing and operationalising the Information Sharing MoUs. 

Joint Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Megan Main says the report shows the facilities are working well. 

"MIQ has served New Zealand well, helping to bring more than 145,000 people here, while protecting the freedoms that we all now enjoy." 

She said around 50 percent of the recommendations have already been completed with a further 45 percent underway or being planned. 

"All of the eight high priority recommendations have work programmes aligned to them, or have already been completed.

"As the report says, the establishment of MIQ has been 'an extraordinary collaborative effort' and given the complex and ever-changing nature it has 'achieved an admirable capability'.

 "The multi-agency, dynamic nature of MIQ has of course presented challenges, but overall the inter-agency arrangements are working well, and everyone is driven by a desire to continue keeping our communities safe.

Responding to the eight areas of concern, Main said recommendations two and five are mostly completed.  

MBIE's response to the recommendations:

Strengthening systems and data integrity

MBIE has an ongoing programme of work to add additional functionality to the systems that support the end to end 'customer' journey from voucher application to leaving a MIF.

Strengthening IT infrastructure

The Technology Standardisation Project has been completed with internet, print, and devices deployed at Regional Isolation and Quarantine Coordination Centres (RIQCCs) and Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facilities (MIQFs). 

Storage of Standard Operating Procedures and a platform for cross agency collaboration has also been delivered. Further user training is underway and will flow into the records management work also underway.

Develop a plan to civilianise NZDF roles

We will conduct a review of the security workforce numbers based on a site-level assessment of security needs. 

In addition, a review of NZDF national office support roles will be conducted in light of MBIE assuming some planning functions. A view of priority roles to transition from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) will be formed.

Address shortages in health resourcing in Auckland

Changes within the MIQ context are having time-limited impacts on the health workforce. These impacts have developed in the time since the assessment took place. The Ministry of Health (MoH) is currently undertaking a Model of Care review.

Review support functions and headcount required to support MIQ systems

This work has been completed and we have a good understanding of our staffing needs. We will continue to review this on an ongoing basis.

Continue rolling out the National Planning Function

This is underway and part of the MIQ Regional Operations Structure initiative. A review of MIQ's planning function has been completed and it will have fully transitioned to a National Planning Function by the end of June, which will further clarify roles and responsibilities, and reduce duplication.

Strengthen Iwi-Māori partnerships in all regions

The assessment highlights that the speed of establishing MIQFs resulted in iwi relationships not being developed early enough in the process. This has been recognised, and work has been underway for some time to deepen relationships. To further strengthen relationships, we are in the process of engaging with iwi on a local basis as well as arranging a June 2021 hui for all iwi that have MIFs in their rohe.

Formalise MIQs information-gathering powers

Suitable provisions are already available under the Privacy Act. MIQ will address this recommendation by continuing to pursue Memoranda of Understanding with government agencies to enable data sharing.