3 May 2020

Union worried workers' voices not being heard in rest home review

6:21 am on 3 May 2020

A union says excluding rest home workers from a group investigating the aged residential care sector risks more deadly Covid-19 clusters emerging.

A doctor holds an elderly woman's hand

Workers and union representatives are not included in a panel set up to look at the performance of the aged residential care sector. Photo: 123RF

The Ministry of Health launched an independent review after five significant clusters of Covid-19 were found in rest homes in Auckland, Waikato and Christchurch.

Sam Jones from the E Tū union said the review panel was made up of public health officials and industry representatives and has no workers or officials from the union or any rest home residents.

He said without these groups' on-the-ground knowledge the review could not succeed.

"It just won't be the full picture, it doesn't mean everything they come up with [will be] false.

"But it absolutely isn't going to flush out all the problems, and therefore the outcome of making sure we don't have more clusters in rest homes won't be achieved if there's any further community spread."

He said keeping workers, unions, and residents out of such an important review felt "like a slap in the face".

Jones said stuffing the review panel with health officials would not help get to the bottom of what happened.

"It doesn't seem to be a particularly good process.

"Self regulation of industries doesn't work."

He said the union has asked the Ministry of Health for a "please explain" and it was not too late for it to change things so workers' voices were heard.

The Ministry of Health said workers would be spoken to during the review.

It said none of the panel members have any involvement or relationship with any of the facilities being reviewed.

The review's terms of reference state that the intention is for rapid progress so it is using a small group who have wider links into the relevant sectors.

The panel's members are:

  • Dr Phil Wood, Ministry of Health and clinical geriatrician, Waitematā DHB
  • Dr Peter Moodie, primary care / GP
  • Tanya Jackways, infection prevention and control (IPC) practitioner
  • Dr John Holmes, public health physician
  • Dr Frances Hughes, chair NLG New Zealand Aged Care Association and GM Oceania Health Care
  • Riana Manuel, Māori representative from Te Apārangi

The panel's final report will be presented to the director-general of health by 29 May, and the report with its recommendations will be published in mid-June.

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