Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero has welcomed the findings of the Auditor-General’s report on the management of personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to Covid-19.
“I was pleased to be able to contribute to this report through meeting with the Auditor-General. If implemented, I believe these recommendations will reduce the risk for disabled people in the future.”
Ms Tesoriero says the delays or failure in getting PPE to community care workers and confusion about the guidelines were the top issues disabled people and their families raised with her during Alert Level 4..
“Given the high risk impact of the virus COVID-19 on groups such as disabled and older people, the intimate nature of some support, and the movement of the support workforce, access to PPE is vital for upholding peoples’ rights that all available measures be taken to protect them.”
“In the absence of adequate PPE some disabled people chose to decline support to reduce their risk of exposure. Some support workers ceased work for the same reason,” says Ms Tesoriero.
As noted in the report’s overview, New Zealanders should quite rightly expect our health system to be capable of rapidly and competently responding to a foreseeable emergency, including a pandemic.
“The report found a number of shortfalls in New Zealand’s ability to respond to the PPE situation which is disappointing” Ms Tesoriero says.
“In particular, it was disappointing to read that the modelling that underpinned the funding for DHB-held national reserve stock was intended to support hospital-use only and did not include the needs of the wider health and disability sector or non-health sector.”
Ms Tesoriero says “the report highlights much of what the disability sector already knows, such as mixed messages about PPE guidance, some emergency plans being out of date, a lack of integration between various parts of the health and disability system, and DHBs not having links to all providers”.
“Of course, this should be balanced by reference to the many positive actions taken and results achieved by the Health and Disability sector in response to COVID-19.”
“I hope the recommendations in the report are implemented as quickly as possible and that disabled people and their whānau are closely involved in the planning, preparation and monitoring in the future,” says Ms Tesoriero.