Red flags over return to work health rules

Published: March 8, 2022

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Toi Mata Hauora is concerned that changing self-isolation rules and allowing Covid positive staff to return to work in hospitals, could encourage already dangerous levels of presenteeism and burnout among senior doctors.

Presenteeism is defined as turning up to work when too unwell, fatigued or stressed to be productive.

ASMS research has shown that 80% of senior doctors routinely work through illness and one in two experience burnout.

ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says both presenteeism and burnout have long been exacerbated by entrenched staffing shortages.

“Our members have a keen sense of duty. They don’t like to let their colleagues down or see patients miss out on treatment.”

“While the Ministry of Health has issued specific criteria and has emphasised that staff must agree to return to work and should not feel pressured, the reality might be quite different.”

The rules also run contrary to more general advice on recovering from Covid.

“From all the evidence, anyone who has had Covid should have time to properly rest and recover. We acknowledge that special circumstances call for special measures in a pandemic, but these rules send the wrong message about looking after the health and wellbeing of our health workers,” Sarah Dalton says.