Act leader David Seymour is calling for health workers unvaccinated for Covid-19 to be allowed to return to work to help with the staffing crisis in hospitals.
Seymour told Newstalk ZB’s Tim Dower that vaccine mandates, immigration restrictions and isolation periods were creating unworkable and unsafe conditions.
“The real safety issue is people not being seen and according to one report somebody actually dying after being turned away from A&E, the real safety issue [is] staff who are being called back after their shift to do a double and being asked to work on every day off, that is unsafe,” said Seymour.
He said it was illogical to restrict staff in the middle of a shortage, especially given that now the flu is driving more patients to hospital than what Covid is.
Seymour said Health Minister Andrew Little has become a spectator in his own portfolio and called for more to be done to get health workers back on the job.
“One thing we could do to get maybe 500 people who were stood down in November back to work is to say look we don’t need to mandate Covid vaccinations at this point, we currently have more flu in the hospitals than Covid and yet health professionals, majority of them, haven’t had their flu jab yet,” he said.
“We need to ask how can we get more through immigration this week, how can we get more people back who were mandated out this week and how can we make our stand down periods workable.”
On RNZ yesterday, Little said the government had done everything it could to support the health system and rejected the accusation it failed to take earlier opportunities to bolster the nursing workforce.
He acknowledged the system was under pressure but stopped short of calling it a crisis.
“Coming off the back of two years of borders that have been closed or highly restricted and responding to a pandemic, that has put pressure on the system and put pressure on staffing. But we have resourced the system to be able to meet the needs that were put to the government of the day by the ministry and indeed by stakeholder groups.”
Hospitals have hit a “level of panic” as they come under extreme pressure with “abnormally high” patient presentations.
When asked on Newstalk ZB if Little had dropped the ball on Covid, Seymour said he thought the Government has chosen the wrong time to restructure the health system.
“It’s an enormous undertaking to restructure the health care system and to do it in the middle of a pandemic is frankly nuts, and to do it in the middle of winter is nuts.
“Given Covid, maybe February 2024 would have been more sensible.”