COVID-19: Hospital executives, lawyers ditch suits for scrubs as hospitals redeploy staff amid Omicron outbreak

Hospital lawyers, executive leaders and financial staff are ditching their suits for scrubs as they help make beds, deliver food and empty bins to help hospitals with the struggle of the Omicron outbreak.

The number of COVID-19 cases in hospital has jumped this week, with 856 people in hospital on Friday. Hospital staff are having to pull extra weight to care for high hospitalisations at a time when they too are experiencing staff shortages due to the virus.

"We have been hearing from all of our hospital leaders this week about the incredible lengths their teams are going to in order to ensure that they continue to deliver the highest possible levels of care and services," Northern Region Health Coordination Centre chief clinical officer Andrew Old said in a press conference.

Dr Old says at Waitematā District Health Board, the entire legal team has been redeployed to support security guards and the chief financial officer has been seen working in the wards delivering patients' meals. 

At Auckland Hospital, anesthetists have been working as phlebotomists and the executive leadership team has been making beds, answering call bells and clearing linen skips in the emergency department.

Public health nurses at Counties Manukau District Health Board are stepping up into hospital roles at Middlemore Hospital and staff are picking up extra hours to help fill roster gaps.

"These are just some of the examples in the way that our teams are pulling together to redeploy and allow our stretched clinical teams to provide the things that only they can provide," Dr Old said.

He says we are fortunate in New Zealand that we are facing an outbreak with high vaccination rates, which is helping to keep hospitalisation rates down. However, he says this is an area that needs continued focus on and attention now needs to be turned to booster shots.