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DHB PPE stock unknown at start of COVID-19 -review

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The Ministry of Health didn't know how much personal protective equipment DHBs had in the early stages of the COVID-19 response, a review has found.

The review by the Auditor-General found the ministry did not regularly review DHBs' plans to ensure that they were kept current and aligned with the overall plans.

"We found some misalignment in the plans about roles and responsibilities for both planning for, and providing PPE in a pandemic, which led to confusion," it said.

The review found that the gaps in the planning also meant the ministry was not well positioned to ensure PPE was available in enough quantities throughout the country to meet the demand caused by the pandemic.

In addition, it noted in early February 2020, the ministry did not know what PPE stock the DHBs held in their reserve supplies or have a system to forecast demand.

Once the ministry started receiving regular information from DHBs about stock levels, it emerged that a significant amount of stock had expired.

Fourteen DHBs informed the ministry that they were holding either expired national reserve mask stock or no national reserve mask stock.

Auditor-General John Ryan says the ministry moved quickly to set up a new centralised system for procuring, prioritising, and distributing PPE stock.

"Ideally, that system would have been better planned for and tested as part of the health sector's emergency readiness."

The review has put forward 10 recommendations to help strengthen the management of PPE.

This includes the ministry regularly reviewing DHB's health emergency plans to ensure that they are complete, up to date, and consistent with each other and with the overarching Emergency Plan.

It also recommended the ministry work with other government agencies to determine how workers and providers not currently covered by the national reserve of PPE access it in the future.

John says it was important to note that there was still a risk that COVID-19 would re-emerge or another pandemic occur.

However, he says much had been learned through the initial response.

"To be sufficiently prepared in the future, the health and disability sector needs a clear understanding of what PPE is held where, who it should be provided to, a way of forecasting demand, and a scalable system for procuring and distributing stock."

RNZ.

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