Emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time.  They can be caused by severe weather, infectious diseases, industrial accidents, or by intentional acts.

Emergencies can also vary in scope and impact.  An emergency can threaten public safety, the environment, the economy, critical infrastructure, or the health of the public.

It is important that the health sector plans and prepares for all types of emergencies, natural and unnatural, so that we can reduce the impact on health services and respond to the health needs of people impacted by the event.  

Health Emergency Legislation, Regulations and National Guidelines

Health districts and most health and disability service providers have a responsibility to respond to, and provide health care for, their communities during periods of emergencies under various Acts, regulations and national guidelines including (but not limited to)

  • Health Act 1956
  • Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002
  • International Health Regulations 2005
  • National Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan Order 2015 (in particular, but not limited to clauses 47-51 and 71)
  • Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act 2001
  • National Health Emergency Plan, Subplans and associated documents.

The Emergency Management Team

The purpose of the Emergency Management Team is to maintain the capability and capacity of the health and disability system to manage emergencies.

It strengthens and maintains the capability and capacity to detect, mitigate, prevent, protect, respond to and recover from natural, human-induced and environmental threats and hazards that impact the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

In doing so, this enables the health system to:

  • Meet its legislative, equity, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations relating to Emergency Management
  • Fulfil the directives of Cabinet to enhance and sustain the emergency management capability of the health sector
  • Ensure that a trained team is maintained to form the first response to health emergencies and the subsequent nucleus of any response; and
  • Fulfil our responsibilities to the National Security System by providing leadership and support to the response to national security issues as they arise.

Health and Disability Sector Emergency Responses

The health and disability sector has plans and processes in place that ensure we can respond to emergencies of any type and scale.  

National Health Emergency Plan (NHEP)

The National Health Emergency Plan:

  • provides a framework for the health and disability sector to respond to disasters and emergencies.
  • provides a consistent approach and enables the health and disability sector to coordinate and collaborate when larger emergency events occur
  • describes the strategic relationships across the health sector against the 4 Rs (Reduction, Readiness, Response, and Recovery).

Regional Health Emergency Plans

  • to create a collaborative and coordinated emergency response to health incidents across the region
  • to provide coordinated mutual aid within affected districts and region
  • to provide coordinated mutual aid for other regions during an emergency response
  • to work together to assist in the restoration population health status
  • to enhance resilience within the health care sector at district and regional levels.

District Health Emergency Plans

Each health district has a Health Emergency Plan in place.  The Health Emergency Plans consider the planning required to respond to many types of emergency, for example natural events like an earthquake or in response to an infectious disease.  The Health Emergency Plans cover health services in the district, including ambulance, primary care, secondary and tertiary care, mental health, disability support, aged residential care, and public health services.

These plans describe the health district’s:

  • relationship with their local Civil Defence Emergency Management groups
  • activities to reduce the impact of, prepare for, manage, and recover from an emergency
  • strategies to identify vulnerable groups/populations and address any inequities in accessing health services during emergency responses and recovery including lower socioeconomic groups, Māori and Pacific peoples and disabled people
  • communications networks and structures, education and training and response plans during and after an emergency.

National and Regional Response Coordination

In larger emergency events where one or more health districts are involved or when one district requires assistance there are mechanisms in place to provide response support by the regional division. National scale emergencies often require coordination across the motu, and this is done by Health NZ and the Ministry of Health national offices.