NZ rest homes 'not geared up' for coronavirus outbreak, calls for national action plan

Source: 1News

There's concern New Zealand isn't equipped to deal with a coronavirus outbreak within its aged care facilities.

The concern comes after four people in an American nursing home died from Covid-19, with four others diagnosed. The elderly seem most vulnerable to the virus, with the mortality rate roughly 15 per cent for people over the age of 80.

Simon Wallace, chief executive of the New Zealand Aged Care Association, says the country's rest homes are "not geared up" for a coronavirus outbreak.

"We’re concerned, or I’m certainly concerned that we haven’t got the level of preparedness and support from the district health boards and Ministry of Health that we need to be able to manage this response through rest homes," said Mr Wallace. 

He is calling for a national action plan to be put in place for the virus, but he says there hasn't been a good response from the DHBs or the ministry. 

"We haven’t had a good response at all," he said. "I raised this issue a couple of weeks ago at a national level forum with district health boards, I wrote to them last week and the response so far has been very patchy."

A national action plan would involve more medical aid, including equipment and staff. 

"We’d like to have access to the national stockpile of medical equipment, for example sanitary masks and surgical gowns," he said. 

"We’d like to be able to have on call staff from public hospitals. We’re not geared up for a larger outbreak such as coronavirus so we need to have the staff support." 

He said there may be a national plan, but it hasn’t been communicated with the association.

"This is multi-faceted, it's about our residents, it's about our staff as well," said Mr Wallace.