Retirement village's virus lockdown

By Adriana Weber

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Bethlehem Views Retirement Village is on lockdown after of a possible outbreak of the norovirus, making families wanting to visit their relatives very upset. Photo/Thinkstock
Bethlehem Views Retirement Village is on lockdown after of a possible outbreak of the norovirus, making families wanting to visit their relatives very upset. Photo/Thinkstock

A Rotorua woman is upset with a retirement village for not letting her see her elderly mother after it went into lockdown because of a suspected outbreak of norovirus.

Tauranga retirement village Bethlehem Views has closed its doors to visitors and contractors while it deals with the suspected outbreak of the highly-contagious virus, leaving the daughter of one of its residents furious.

Bethlehem Views has said it is following advice from Public Health not to allow visitors or contractors at the site. The local medical officer of health said it was standard practice to close the doors to visitors.

The woman from Rotorua, who did not want to be named, said it was unfair she or her sister were not able to visit their elderly mother, who was not affected by the virus. The mother has for the last 12 years suffered from dementia.

"It's just not right, they're holding her prisoner in her own room. She's not allowed contact with anyone who cares about her, just staff who feed her. It's like she's a captive," she said.

Her sister, who tried to visit their mother earlier this week, was turned away and told she would not be able to visit her mother until 96 hours after the last patient was sick with the effects of the virus, she said.

"It could go on for weeks. The virus is something that goes around and around."

She said because her mother's dementia prevented her from talking, she was unable to call her on the phone to see how she was.

She would normally visit her mother every weekend and her sister who lived in Tauranga would visit most days.

While she understood the retirement village's caution, she said a full lockdown was not necessary and in certain circumstances visitors should be allowed to see their family members.

"I completely understand why they wouldn't let children visit, because they might be really prone to the illness. But I don't know why an adult isn't able to make an informed decision, knowing full well the risks, and be able to visit their loved ones."

A Bethlehem Views management spokesman said Public Health had advised the village not to allow visitors or contractors on the property.

"We are taking all measures possible to prevent the spread of infection and maintain the health and well-being of our residents," he said.

"All residents are being isolated in the hope this will be brought to a swift conclusion. We understand this is inconvenient for residents, families and friends and we appreciate their co-operation and patience to manage this situation."

As well as isolation and restricting visitor movements, the rest home had instituted a range of cleaning and disinfectant measurements including strict hand hygiene and staff to stay home if they become infected.

Bay of Plenty medical officer of health Neil de Wet said it was standard protocol for a retirement home to close its doors on visitors in a situation like this.

Symptoms of norovirus may include vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, fever, headaches, muscle and joints aches and pains, nausea and lack of energy. Symptoms usually occur within 48 hours of exposure to an infected person, food or environment.

- Additional reporting by Ruth Keber

- Rotorua Daily Post

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