A Northland nurse has spoken out about the abuse and harassment she has received describing it ‘like we are walking around with a target on our back’.
Hanibrez Sipu who is working as a Covid vaccinator talked about the threats faced by many health professionals as a result of the vaccine mandate.
“They have been mandated to get vaccinated and so have no choice, and they end up reflecting that anger and frustration out on us.”
Last week, Sipu received a threat from a parent who had come with their child to be vaccinated.
“This parent asked me if I was going to kill their child – to which I replied no.
“Then she asked if I could be sued if the child died, and I politely denied and said that’s not how it works.
“At this point, she looked at me straight and said ‘If I can’t do that, then I’ll take you on a boot ride’.”
Sipu said she was upset but kept her composure because she had her nursing hat on at the time and “I cannot bite back” at the comments she made.
She continued with the vaccination, however, Sipu said it was really upsetting to hear that.
“We are all stressed out, tired and burnt out, and the last thing you want to hear when you are feeling all these emotions is that somebody turning around and threatening your life.
“I do not take these threats too lightly.”
The 29-year-old posted a TikTok video on Thursday to highlight this incident because she said “it is now happening so often”.
Sipu reflected that sometimes people forget registered nurses were also human beings and just doing their jobs.
“I feel sometimes the registered nurses are afraid to speak up because one – their job in on line and two – they don’t want their name tarnished.
“I may be a registered nurse, but I am also a human, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunty … we just wear different hats.
“At that moment, I was just broken, so I needed to get it out there. People need to know about the way they are speaking to vaccinators, whether they are against the vaccine or the mandate, the anger should not be portrayed towards the vaccinators.
“It is not us who is making policies and we shouldn’t be the target.
“We are listening to the Ministry of Health and doing what they have asked us to do. We are just doing our part to protect our community.
“We shouldn’t be receiving the heat. It is like we are walking around with a target on our back.”
Sipu started her job as a vaccinator in July this year and since then has vaccinated more than 3000 people in Northland. She has worked two jobs – seven days a week – to boost vaccination in the wider community, without taking a single holiday since July.
Sipu hoped to receive some sort of protection for the vaccinators and said Northland was getting closer to that small percentage of people who are really hesitant and with this tiny portion of people, they were going to receive a massive pushback.
“At the moment, I wonder whether this is the right profession for me, my life is being threatened. I am glad I have a support system behind me.”
NDHB Northland Vaccination Programme senior responsible officer Jeanette Wedding said Government funding for the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme covered operational costs for vaccination clinics run by Northland DHB, Maori health and other community providers.
Programme delivery costs, such as security, are covered in the funding, she said.
“Northland DHB has security staff assigned to community clinics, and DHB staff are trained to respond appropriately in situations that present an escalating risk.
“We do not tolerate any abuse or threats against our staff and encourage them to report any concerns or risks. We have policies and processes in place to manage and mitigate these, including reporting serious incidents to Northland Police.
“An Employee Assistance Programme is in place to allow staff access to counselling services should they need any additional support.
“Other vaccination providers in the region manage the logistics of their own clinics, so we are unable to comment on the measures in place across all vaccination clinics in Northland.
“However, Northland DHB would offer support to any providers who are concerned about security, to implement plans that ensure the safety of their staff.
“Healthcare workers who are delivering the Northland Vaccination Programme have, and continue to, work incredibly hard to ensure that our community is protected against Covid-19.
“Northland DHB asks that all staff are treated with kindness and patience as any abuse will not be tolerated and as required, incidents will be reported to Northland Police.”
Sipu started making TikTok videos to raise awareness in the community, assisting them with their whakapapa, and making sure they have access to the right information, so they can make their decision and get vaccinated without feeling they are pressured into doing so.
Some of her videos received more than 64,000 views and she said most feedback she received was positive.
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