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Wairarapa DHB has a covid response plan but they’re keeping it secret from the public. SUE TEODORO reports.

Wairarapa District Health Board is not making its covid response plan public, despite other DHBs having done so.

A Ministry of Health [MoH] spokesperson confirmed DHBs were expected to maintain plans to help work out if additional resources were needed, and help local services co-ordinate.

“The Ministry of Health has asked district health boards to develop and maintain regional covid-19 response plans to help determine their local capacity, any need for additional support, and ensure local services are providing a coordinated response to the pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

“Questions about specific regional plans are best directed to the individual DHBs.”

Wairarapa DHB communications manage, George Symmes confirmed the DHB’s covid response plan existed, but was not a public document.

“The Wairarapa District Community and Hospital Covid Response Plan is an internal document,” Symmes said.

“Because of this, we are unable to answer the questions or provide you with a copy of ‘the plan’ that you have asked.”

The DHB’s comments come as thousands are confirmed with covid across the region, and Wairarapa Hospital is under increasing pressure. In February the DHB reported 63 staff vacancies, seven of which were in the emergency department.

All three Wairarapa district councils said they had not seen the planning document, which was being managed by the DHB.

A spokesperson for South Wairarapa District Council referred the Times-Age to the DHB.

“I have asked about and we have not received such a document so the DHB will be the best place to go,” a spokesperson said.

Similar comments were made by Carterton and Masterton councils.

“The council has not received the plan. I’m told that it is an internal DHB document,” a Masterton district council spokesperson said.

A Carterton council spokesperson agreed.

“It is our understanding that this document was an internal document not shared with councils but was sent to health providers. Therefore we suggest you approach the DHB for question or comment,” they said.

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty did not have a copy of a planning document, but said he had received updates from the DHB about covid preparedness. He said as an MP, communication with the DHB was effective.

“I haven’t got a copy of a plan, but I don’t expect to. It’s not the sort of document I would expect to be cleared with the local MP,” he said.

“I have been in regular conversations with the DHB and have been well briefed about provisions in place for this wave of covid. Verbal briefings [from the DHB] have happened throughout the vaccine rollout and at other times as necessary.”

McAnulty said he had found the DHB open to working through issues he had raised.

“From my perspective, I feel I am given all the information I need, and the opportunity to raise concerns.

“Staff have raised concerns, and we have made sure the DHB is aware of those concerns. It is worrying that staff are concerned about the well-being of other staff,” he said.

McAnulty said the public had a legitimate expectation to know the DHB had plans in place to manage covid.

“Ultimately whether or not a particular document is published, is up to the DHB itself.”

McAnulty said the problem was not one of funding, which had been increased under the current government.

“Staffing concerns have been exacerbated by staff having to isolate themselves with covid.

“We have been expecting and planning for this wave. There was additional funding for covid-related issues,” he said.

“The DHB has an incredibly dedicated workforce, but the DHB structure does not provide the workforce with the support it needs.”

McAnulty said current change proposals for the health sector were expected to give the community access to better funding models.

“Wairarapa is the second smallest DHB in the country and services a large rural area. This is challenging from a funding point of view.

“Bringing it into a national health service would be expected to lead to better health outcomes for the community and more support for the staff,” he said.

Public planning and information documents for a covid outbreak were available online for other DHBs, including Midcentral and Hawke’s Bay.

Midcentral DHB’s 47-page covid-19 Resurgence Plan has sections including ‘Readiness and Response co-ordination’, ‘Roles and Responsibilities’ and ‘Operational Context and Sub Plans’.

“This Resurgence Plan describes the Midcentral District Health Board plan to prepare for and manage the local response to further outbreaks of novel coronavirus disease 2019.

“This plan aims to provide people in leadership positions with a framework for the delivery of the actions required to respond rapidly to an outbreak, whilst at the same time maintaining ‘business as usual’ as much as possible,” the document said.

Hawke’s Bay DHB had a 30-page document.

“The HBDHB covid-19 Response Plan is a summary of plans, processes, guidelines and resources that have been developed to guide the management of covid-19 when it is identified to be in the Hawke’s Bay community and impacting on the delivery of health services,” it said.

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