Sticking to safety procedures is always more important than sticking to a schedule.

The Employment Relations Authority has refused to reinstate a Northland nurse sacked for not having an emergency kit on site while giving school students HPV vaccine for cervical cancer prevention.

Natalie Lewers was a senior public health nurse employed by the Northland District Health Board to immunise students in the Whangarei and Kaipara area.

On 24th August last year she was leading a team vaccinating pupils at a Whangarei high school.

Although they had no kit with emergency equipment for any anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine, she decided to carry on with the shots.

Comment

On face value this judgment can seem harsh. But if we look at the position of responsibility that Natalie held then it is reasonable for her employer to expect a senior public health nurse leading a team to follow clear-cut procedures relating to vaccinations.

When it comes to administering vaccines the stakes are high for the tiny percentage of people who have adverse reactions. With a possible outcome of death in the most serious cases it would be considered essential that the means to deal with allergic reactions are on hand. In these situations early intervention is critical.

Like a lot of situations relating to health and safety where corners get cut in procedures, for 99 times out of 100 there is often no consequence. It is that 1 percent that makes the headlines and changes lives forever.

If a procedure has been put in place for good reason and the consequences of ignoring that procedure can result in serious harm, then it becomes serious misconduct and the consequence of which is often dismissal.