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Source: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists

Government moves to bring forward the flu vaccine rollout and prioritise healthcare and hospital staff are positive steps in protecting frontline health workers at a critical time, says the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.

DHBs will now be asked to offer the vaccine to aged care workers, doctors, nurses, and hospital staff as a matter of priority.

“We have been concerned about the impact Covid-19 will have on already overstretched staff and services, particularly if it coincides with the winter flu season,” says ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton.

“Offering the flu vaccine to frontline health professionals is a welcome acknowledgement of the importance of protecting their health and wellbeing”.

ASMS would also urge DHBs to send a very strong message to doctors and medical staff to stay home if they feel unwell.

It says specialists in particular take on a lot of responsibility and often feel they can’t take sick leave without affecting patient care.  With serious staffing shortages in many services, they also feel that by staying home, they put added strain on their colleagues.

The latest DHB Employed Workforce Quarterly Report put out by TAS, shows that of all the occupation groups in DHBs, specialists took the least amount of sick leave, averaging about 4.5 days off a year.

An ASMS study entitled Superheroes Don’t Take Sick Leave showed 88% of senior doctors often or sometimes went to work while unwell, and 75% went to work unwell with an infectious illness.

Sarah Dalton says senior doctors have a culture of “presenteeism” and in the context of Covid-19, it’s another risk that must be managed.

The situation could spiral if Covid-19 takes hold in New Zealand, and more health workers are required to self-isolate,” she adds.