The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is concerned for the emotional and physical wellbeing of nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora because of the strain put on them by the community resurgence of COVID-19.
NZNO Kaiwhakahaere says the organisation is particularly concerned for primary care nursing staff - who work mainly in medical centres, emergency clinics and testing stations- because they are the first frontline against the virus and are the most exposed and least protected.
"We are already hearing alarming reports that PPE supplies in primary care, such as masks, are running low or being drip-fed; and mask fit-testing, which is essential to proper protection, is not occurring.
"These are among the most essential of essential workers because they help keep people out of hospitals. Yet in terms of equipping them, we seem to be in pretty much the same place as this time last year.
"We’re also concerned that the approach to the virus has not been updated, despite the delta variant being airborne and so much more serious and contagious. Current guidelines need an urgent review."
Nuku said nursing staff in all sectors will be dealing with the emotional toll the renewed risk of contracting the virus will place upon themselves and their family and whānau.
"We know some nurses are struggling to come to terms with what is being asked of them. Even those of us locked safely away in our homes are anxious and we don’t have to go to a workplace where we face the virus every day.
"Nurses in both hospitals and primary care remain chronically understaffed, and nurses leaving, taking roles at MIQ Vaccinations programmes and having the border closed to international nurses, meant many staff are new to their wards or teams which also added strain."
Nuku also said NZNO would be pursuing matters affecting nurse safety and wellbeing with the Government, DHBs and Ministry of Health - and that it will hold the powers-that-be accountable. She said nurses are exhausted and don’t have a lot to give right now, and urged the public to get behind them and show their support whenever and however they can.