Covid 19 Delta outbreak: DHB Covid guidelines removed following vaccination mandate
DHBs do not appear to have solid data on which members of their staff who may come in contact with Covid-19 are vaccinated. Photo / Alex Burton
The requirement for district health boards to know the vaccination status of staff likely to come into contact with Covid-19 appears to have been removed due to complications related to data collection and the recent mandate to vaccinate staff from health.
In June, a DHB Guidance Document was published regarding vaccination, which stipulated that all work on the Covid-19 component was to be carried out by vaccinated staff.
Along with these guidelines, it was established by TAS – an organization representing DHBs – that DHBs have until August 31 to ensure that all staff who may be exposed to the virus are fully vaccinated.
“DHBs are expected to know by August 31, 2021 the vaccination status of all workers identified as being in a Covid-19 workflow, and will take the necessary steps now to identify and record their Covid-19 workflows, and identify the immunization status of workers in these workflows, ”a TAS spokesperson said in July.
However, the NZ Herald understands that this requirement has been dropped – in part because DHBs find it too difficult to record the necessary data as well as the possible mandate that comes into effect from November 15.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said DHBs had worked hard to ensure their staff received their first vaccination on the due date.
“Healthcare workers and workers with disabilities have been able to get vaccinated against Covid-19 since March 2021, and DHBs have so far achieved high rates of voluntary vaccination,” he said.
“I await updated information on the status of each DHB in mid-November.”
Hipkins has not commented on the August 31 deadline.
In September, the Herald made a request under the Official Information Act, asking for the vaccination levels of Covid-19 workflow staff across all DHBs.
The request was recently denied because the information could not be obtained without “substantial collection or research”.
Staff vaccination data in DHBs has been published regularly since May, however, the specific staff levels of the Covid-19 workflow have never been made public.
The Herald understands that DHBs have been crippled by the retrospective collection of staff immunizations, as well as the legal complications associated with recording staff members’ personal health information.
It is also understood that the August 31 deadline is considered redundant, due to the recent government announcement that healthcare workers must have received their first dose by November 15 and their second by January 1.
While this left two and a half months during which DHBs may not have known the immunization status of their staff facing Covid, there was a high degree of confidence in strong immunization coverage throughout this workforce. of work.
University of Otago epidemiologist Nick Wilson said DHBs ignoring vaccination levels among staff who could interact with the virus pose a significant risk.
“It seems very problematic that DHBs don’t know this because then they can’t reassure the public,” he said.
“Say there is a good overall average [vaccination level], that could be 100 percent of physicians and low participation of nurses and so they would like to be able to target nurses as there is likely variation among particular groups. “
He said it was essential for managers to know which staff were protected from the virus and would indicate where additional support was needed across the country.
“This is such basic information… it’s just weird that they can’t tell.”
Absorbed by other issues caused by the pandemic, DHBs have been notoriously slow in recording staff immunization data.
In May, the Herald revealed that 11 DHBs were not collecting data on whether their staff had received the Covid vaccine.
At the time, there was no protocol in place requiring DHB staff to be vaccinated before treating patients suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19.
As of July, nine DHBs were still not recording this data. Now all DHBs collect this information.
Craig Carr, New Zealand president of the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society, said he understands that heads of intensive care units across the country have recently been encouraged to check the immunization status of their staff.
“It seems like a norm,” he said.
“Both because of our responsibility for health and safety for our staff at work and our responsibility for health and safety for the patients we care for, we work through a process to ensure that all of our front-line staff are vaccinated. “