Yesterday was DAY 19 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.
Whilst for the most part lock down seems to be going pretty smoothly, there seem to be some persistent problems with District Health Boards refusing access to their stock of personal protective equipment. Most frustratingly, the problems are not new.
What I find difficult to understand is why the D.H.B.’s or whoever is holding the P.P.E. is being so stingy about it. The P.P.E. is there to be used by the staff who need it. It is not there to be piled up in a store room and forgotten about.
In late March and early April, the Government ordered the release of 11 million masks from the Ministry of Health stockpile. As at 2 April there were 11 chartered flights carrying masks, gowns, visors and gloves scheduled to arrive in New Zealand.
As the global demand for medical P.P.E. has sky rocketed, accusations of some desperate – and questionable tactics – have come to light of bullying by some countries so that they can get more P.P.E. It has been alleged that a consignment of equipment being loaded onto plane bound for Gemany was stopped by American officials who asked how much the Germans had paid and then handed over an even bigger sum.
In New Zealand it has also led to a surge in entrepreneurs trying to establish using 3-D printers, a local manufacturing line for face shields that doctors and nurses could wear. These have been well received by medical staff and the Ministry of Health.
The development of local businesses that can supply this with ease to New Zealand clients should be encouraged. When not in such huge demand by New Zealand medical organizations and professionals, the excess could be offered to South Pacific Island nations as a way of ensuring that they do not have to rely on distant sources of medical P.P.E.
Although the efforts of the New Zealand Government and the stepping up of locals to help out is all good news for New Zealand, at the end of the day, it does not change the fact that the delays are not acceptable and are potentially putting people at unnecessary risk. Anyone in either the M.O.H. or the D.H.B.’s who has the means to force the release of the P.P.E. when it is needed and chooses not to should asked to step aside.