Some health providers may be unwittingly breaking Covid rules

Source: 1News

Some health providers may be unwittingly breaking the rules as businesses struggle to balance keeping their staff safe while continuing to see unvaccinated patients.

Under all traffic light system settings, all Allied Health providers, such as physiotherapists, optometrists, and dentists, can see patients face-to-face.

But they also can’t turn anyone away based on vaccination status.

As a result, some businesses have chose to allocate certain staff, days, or time slots to unvaccinated patients.

Mark Quinn from Auckland Physiotherapy told 1News he has two vulnerable staff members who he’s trying to protect.

“A couple of our staff members for example are considered high risk so if they were to catch covid – that’s considered a high-risk situation,” he said.

Government rules state “basic needs services [including] essential health care are not able to limit the type of service provided to customers or patrons based on vaccination status”, however guidelines sent out by the Health Ministry state some measures can be taken but the “onus is on the provider to make that justification”.

That leaves some wondering if they’re breaking the law.

Quinn says given Auckland’s been in lockdown for the last three months, many businesses like his don’t have the resources or funds to get good quality legal advice.

“It's all this work that shouldn't necessarily have to be done by us if the [Health] Order when it was announced was specific and well thought out,” he said.

Physiotherapy NZ chief executive Sandra Kirby said usually they rely on case law to define what can or can’t happen. But she’s hopeful the Government will give some more clarity before it gets to the courts.

“Certainly we would’ve liked the health order to come out probably a week earlier so we could’ve been having these discussions before it was implemented,” she said.

General practices are also finding it hard to navigate the laws and some are finding the restrictions are resulting in longer wait times for unvaccinated people.

Samantha Murton from the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners said some of these people are already marginalised by the health system.

“We have an issue with accessibility already. People can find it a struggle to get appointments on certain times and then if you're corralling those times even more then it can make it even more difficult,” she said.

Murton said health providers need to remain flexible and expects this will be an issue that many will work through over the next few months.