Health Minister Andrew Little announced the Government's plan on how the health system will cope with the imminent surge in Covid cases now there is a transition away from the elimination strategy.
A Government announcement to set aside 300 managed isolation and quarantine spots each month for international healthcare workers with job offers will make a “noticeable difference” to a sector under strain, the union representing senior doctors says.
Health Minister Andrew Little has been pushed to bolster a chronically understaffed health sector battling Covid for months, with pressure mounting after a new plan to manage Covid patients with mild infections at home raised questions about how the sector will cope.
The decision to prioritise access to 300 MIQ rooms a month, from November 1, for international hospital and primary care health workers with job offers, was welcomed by Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Sarah Dalton.
“It’s fantastic, we expect it will make a noticeable difference," she said.
“We had a specialist this week stopped from stepping on a plane for pointless, bureaucratic reasons.”
Healthcare and disability workers deemed critical to the country have been able to apply for emergency MIQ rooms set aside for people with ‘time-sensitive’ travel. But this hasn’t cover critical workers like nurses who have job offers in New Zealand, a number of which haven’t been able to use the process to fill vital roles, after border closures stemmed the flow of international staff.
“Under the changes I am announcing today, the Ministry of Health will have priority access to 300 MIQ rooms a month, and will work with district health boards and primary health organisations to allocate them to the people we need to get here the fastest,” Little said in an announcement on Wednesday.
Delta cases continue to surge with 94 cases – the highest-ever daily tally – recorded on Tuesday. The virus’ reproductive rate now sits between 1.2 and 1.3 which means it will continue to grow.
The new isolation regime will free-up MIQ space, with many positive community cases moved there, but is another stream of work for the health sector under strain since the virus’ arrival; working to catch-up with treatment delayed by lockdown, while also rolling out vaccinations and Covid testing, and caring for Covid patients.
The majority of mild Covid infections can be managed at home through Healthline, but there was a risk for those with other health problems, like diabetes and hypertension, who were more likely to be sent to hospital if their condition deteriorated while at home.
Health and disability workers critical to the health system will still be eligible for emergency allocations if needed, and any existing bookings for healthcare workers will stand, Little said.