At the North Shore and Waitakere hospitals, visitors are “not allowed” except for “strict compassionate reasons” – such as if a person is seriously ill or dying.
It is the same at Middlemore Hospital, where “no visit is allowed except in essential and humanitarian circumstances”.
Basevi said Auckland’s current DHB guidelines present a host of issues, including too many hospital visitors, poor compliance, an inadequate screening process and a lack of protection for nurses.
“The current screening process has multiple flaws in terms of installation, flow of workers and visitors, training and guides for controllers, mask training, advice to stationed security at checkpoints, lack of daily briefing and handover of teams and no separation of visitors and workers entering the building.
He said a lack of communication within DHB also means people can “play with the system” and enter multiple times a day from different points.
Basevi also revealed that there had been a case where a visitor had sex with a patient in a shared room.
“There are staff intimidation by patients, different rules given to visitors regarding the length of visits, visitors mingling with other staff and patients, visitors having sex with patients, and no one is monitoring visitor deadlines. “
He said the issues put a lot of pressure on staff and caused anxiety and fear for patients.
While Basevi admitted that Auckland DHB does a lot of good when it comes to PPE, he said the number of visitors staff interact with is dangerous.
“They also have to go home to their families and at level four the level of visitation we have doesn’t match and that’s not fair.”
“The Auckland DHB has a level three visitation policy which they have upgraded to level four.”
Auckland DHB revised its policy over the weekend after major complaints from nurses.
At a press conference on Thursday, Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield said the Department of Health had contacted DHB.
“The Auckland DHB’s visiting approach is in line with our national policy and we have encouraged (…) the NZNO to engage with the DHB to resolve issues and issues.
“At the same time, our team is working with people from all DHBs to review and revise policies in line with the Delta outbreak.
Asked about allegations that a visitor had sex with a patient, Bloomfield said it was a “high-risk activity” during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I think it’s potentially a high-risk activity, but I don’t know any of the details of this interaction.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern added: “Regardless of the COVID status, this sort of thing should generally not be part of visiting hours.”
In a statement to Newshub Auckland, the DHB said its current approach is aimed at balancing the risks of the spread of COVID-19 with the need for whānau to be there to support our patients.
“The safety of our staff, patients and visitors is a priority for us and we have undertaken a full risk assessment for this policy and are confident that all risks are well managed. We have visitor control at our inputs to check for COVID-19 symptoms and ensure policy is being followed.
“We had continuous communication with NZNO regarding our current approach to visitors and will involve health and safety representatives in subsequent decisions made by our COVID-19 incident management team, as appropriate. ”
Director of Provider Services Dr Mike Shepherd said whānau are an important part of the recovery process for patients.
“We have guidelines and processes in place to facilitate patient access to whānau that significantly reduce any risk of the spread of COVID-19 infection, while ensuring that patients can be cared for in person by the members of their whānau.
“The safety of our staff, patients and visitors is a priority for us and it is a decision we made with great consideration, including a full risk assessment.
“We are making changes to our guidelines and improving our processes based on feedback from our staff and their union representatives. Our current approach is aligned with national guidelines for hospital visitors. “
Last week, Kerri Nuku Kaiwhakahaere of the New Zealand Nurses Organization (NZNO) told Newshub that the visitor policy was “absolutely ridiculous”.
“There is no logic in that. The concerns of our members are one of safety – safety for themselves, the safety of our patients.”