A New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT) is a team of health specialists with the necessary skills, qualifications and training to support a health emergency response with New Zealand or the south-west Pacific.
The teams consist of clinical and allied staff, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, allied health and non-medical members such as logisticians.
If you have employees who wish to volunteer with NZMAT, the following information explains what is involved.
- Disruption to employers
- Timing and length of deployments
- Agreeing for employees to join the NZMAT
- Pay for employees while on deployment
- Training requirements and costs
Volunteers are not required for every deployment
Recruitment to the NZMAT includes a comprehensive application review and selection process. Not every person will be required for any given deployment.
When a NZMAT is activated, only a fraction of the volunteer database is deployed.
Selecting volunteers to avoid disruption
Selection of volunteers for teams will avoid, whenever possible, placing multiple people employed in the same department in an organization being deployed at the same time.
The Ministry of Health and Counties Manukau DHB will avoid deploying the same team members more than once a year whenever possible and will liaise with volunteers and their employers to reduce the burden on the home and workplace as much as possible.
Backfilling positions while volunteers are on deployment
Employers may elect to utilise their normal mechanisms to backfill positions to maintain services or seek assistance from the Ministry of Health in accessing help from other NZMAT registrants working elsewhere.
Depending on their role within NZMAT and the requirements of the affected area requesting NZMAT assistance, advance notice of deployment could be few hours or a few days’ notice.
We envisage deployments will be infrequent. The average individual deploys less than once a year. The exact number of times will depend on the number of disasters/major events, but the Ministry of Health avoids deploying the same individual more than once a year whenever possible.
It is impossible to predict how often a deployment could be required and a deployment may not occur for years.
The maximum deployment is 14 days. There is a possibility that deployments maybe extended depending on the needs of the mission. However deployments may be for shorter time periods as well, depending upon the requirements of the affected area.
Employers will be asked to approve their employee’s membership of NZMAT in principle, based on their operational requirements at the time. An Employer Acknowledgement Form is available for this purpose:
You can refuse to let your employee join the NZMAT or go on an official deployment, but bear in mind that the training and experience they gain will benefit you as an employer during a disaster in the area you serve.
Why not wait until there is an event before recruiting health professionals?
It is important for NZMAT responders to be carefully selected: not all health professionals will be suited to the challenging demands of a health disaster response.
It is important to capture full details of registrants (eg, passport details and next of kin) to speed their deployment.
Likewise the Ministry of Health can then arrange health and travel insurance at short notice.
Ad-hoc responses at the time of a disaster result in slower responses, ad-hoc outcomes and increased risk – not only to untrained staff but also to their patients.
Employees’ salaries or wages are to be paid at their usual rates while on deployment. The funding arrangements are described below, and are different for domestic and overseas deployments.
Employers cannot require their employees:
- to make up missed time from work due to NZMAT deployment
- use annual leave for an NZMAT deployment.
Costs for domestic deployments by DHBs and other health organisations will be met through normal health funding mechanisms for emergency responses.
The Ministry of Health will liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) concerning funding support for health deployments in the SW Pacific.
DHBs or other health agencies should maintain accurate records of all costs incurred in supporting an overseas deployment. These costs may include:
- salaries and wages of deployed staff
- backfilling of deployed staff positions
- travel that is not otherwise paid for
- deployment-related expenses incurred by deployed staff
- actual and reasonable costs of administration of the deployment.
Any claims should be forwarded to the Ministry of Health, which will make the appropriate arrangements with MFAT/NZAID.
Health employers have a responsibility to ensure their staff are trained to prepare for and respond to health emergencies. Nevertheless NZMAT specific training for selected registrants will be organised by Counties Manukau DHB and the Ministry of Health and will be paid for from time to time.
Training demands on employee time will be modest: occasionally some employees will be offered a block training course over several days, but in most years only a few hours of time will be necessary.
Legal liability cover
It is the responsibility of NZMAT members to provide for and maintain their own professional indemnity insurance.
Some insurance schemes will extend cover for NZMAT deployments
The Medical Protection Society and the NZ Nurses Organisation have confirmed that they are able to extend cover for insured members for SW Pacific health emergency deployments, and the Ministry of Health can expedite this cover for NZMAT registrants if they are deployed.
Members of other insurance schemes should check on their status for cover during SW Pacific deployments with their insurer.
Some employers show support of their employee by extending the employee’s usual indemnity coverage during a NZMAT deployment.
Health and travel insurance
Volunteers who are registered in advance will have their health and travel insurance covered by the Ministry of Health while on deployment.