Coronavirus: Ministry of Health denies it misled Kiwis after COVID-19 hospital case numbers higher than reported

Each day at 1pm, we're told how many people are in hospital with COVID-19 - but Newshub has discovered that often there are more people in hospital with the virus than we're told.

The Ministry of Health has now changed the way it publicly reports the number of positive patients in hospital, after Newshub identified the actual number was higher than official figures.

It's led to claims the data has been presented in a misleading way, although the Director-General of Health says he's been "very open" with the numbers. 

'In hospital' used to be the messaging when publicly talking about the numbers in our hospitals with COVID-19 - but on Tuesday, after Newshub raised concerns about the information, there was a subtle change in language. 

"Today there are just two people in hospital-level care," Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

It may sound similar - but there's a big difference between those in hospital, and those in hospital-level care.

Dr Bloomfield on Tuesday said "we have been very open with the data to date" - but exactly how open has the Ministry of Health been? 

Its press statement stated on Monday: "Today there are again two people in hospital with COVID-19, one each in Middlemore and North Shore hospitals."

However a North Shore Hospital status report, obtained by Newshub and sent to staff at 1:30pm - exactly 30 minutes after the Ministry's statement - showed there were in fact five COVID-19 patients at the hospital.

Coronavirus: Ministry of Health denies it misled Kiwis after COVID-19 hospital case numbers higher than reported

An employee from the Waitemata DHB says in her mind, the Ministry's reporting of the data has been misleading. She says what is being stated publicly isn't actually the reality in terms of the numbers of patients with COVID at hospitals around the country.

Since Newshub pointed out that the figures didn't add up, the Ministry has changed its language.

Dr Bloomfield says the Ministry hasn't been misleading, but some people from rest homes who have COVID-19 are in hospital because the facilities they were in had staffing issues.

"We haven't counted them in our numbers of people who are requiring hospital-level care," Dr Bloomfield said. "We are happy to make that clear on the website."

So to clarify, the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 patients staying in our hospitals tonight is five - not just two as reported by the Ministry of Health.

Coronavirus: Ministry of Health denies it misled Kiwis after COVID-19 hospital case numbers higher than reported

On Tuesday night the Health Ministry sent Newshub an email after we pointed out the discrepancies in the way they'd been reporting the cases. 

"You asked today about our reporting of hospital patients with COVID-19 linked to St Margaret's and Dr Bloomfield agreed to change the way this was reported on the Ministry's website," a spokesperson told Newshub.

"This has now been changed."

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