Hundreds of rest homes around the country will be scrutinised by health officials, after more deaths of elderly New Zealanders made yesterday the deadliest yet from Covid-19.
A total of nine people have now died - six of them were being cared for at the Rosewood Rest Home in Christchurch. Yesterday, a commission to review the response of rest homes in New Zealand to Covid-19 was announced.
Canterbury DHB chief executive David Meates told Morning Report about the care being provided to Rosewood patients.
"In terms of the rest homes, in general, have very good processes in place to manage things like norovirus or influenza, those sort of things which they deal with on a year-to-year basis.
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"What was different with this one here was with a number of residents testing positive and some staff testing positive in Rosewood, the need to stand down quite a wide range of staff meant we had to find alternatives both to house and accommodate and also to staff and provide appropriate care for the residents, because it was not an option having stood down effective staff, not to have appropriate care in place.
"I think it's an issue in terms of these are very complex, vulnerable, high level dementia unit residents and they require special people to work in there at any time. And when you have a virus like this it is particularly challenging to isolate them and to separate them to prevent further spread."
He said all of the those transferred to Burwood Hospital from Rosewood were "complex psychogeriatric patients".
The care they were receiving at Burwood was consistent with care they would get at a psycho-geriatric unit, Meates said.
He said all decisions around the patients were made with families, respecting choices from the residents.
"The level of care ... has been absolutely exemplary.
"The one thing to be really clear about is the ones who have passed away have had a caring staff member with them to ensure they are comfortable, supported and not alone when their families could not be physically present."
Yesterday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told a media conference of the messages he had received from family members of Rosewood patients which were in high praise of those providing care.
Meates said the staff caring for the Rosewood patients at Burwood were their own bubble.
"That is a group that is totally separated from the rest of the facility. The staff and residents are working as part of a bubble."
Staff, however, were returning home to their families. They were being tested as appropriate, Meates said.
On the issue of personal protective equipment (PPE), Meates said one of the risks was that with more gear being used, the risk of infection increased every time someone had to put it on or change.
"[They are] Changing their gear a number of times every shift ... between every patient."
A full set included gowns, masks and gloves.
A buddy system to ensure PPE was correct before dealing with patients was in place.
There have been Covid-19 cases in six aged residential care facilities, out of a total of over 650 facilities in the country.
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