While the country welcomes the move to the traffic light system (COVID-19 protection framework) and long-awaited freedoms, health providers are being left to navigate their way through the changes. These freedoms will inevitably increase demand on health services, putting pressure on an already stressed health system, and potentially putting those working on the frontline at risk.
GP clinics and other health services have received no guidance from the Government to establish protocols under the new system and there is no public messaging advising people on what they must do to protect themselves, other patients and the doctors and nurses who will see them if they need to seek treatment.
“We are being left to our own devices to undertake risk assessments and determine procedures to meet our health and safety obligations and keep our patients and staff safe” says Dr Vanessa Weenink, Deputy Chair of the New Zealand Medical Association.
“We will do what we need to do while continuing to provide health services but without Government direction and communication to the public, clinicians are vulnerable to angry responses from patients who feel safety measures are unwarranted” she said, adding that this is an additional burden and stress to an already swamped workforce, many of whom will not be able to have a break over the holiday period.
“It is inexplicable that hairdressers and their customers have more clarity about how to operate under the traffic light system than general practices and their patients do”.