The boss of a retirement village operator is calling on the Government to allow aged care residents to reconnect with their loved ones.
Oceania Healthcare chief executive Brent Pattison says that the current restrictions are weighing heavily on the mental health of his residents.
Under the current conditions, Aucklanders have been allowed to finally start extending their bubbles to include households, but this does not include aged care residents.
The Ministry of Health guidelines stipulate that family and non-essential visits are not allowed under alert level 3.
Exceptions are made for compassionate grounds, but these are limited to specific scenarios (critical illness, increased confusion or distress, a deterioration in mental health or special care needs).
This in turn means that the vast majority of residents in these facilities cannot connect with their extended families at the moment.
"We believe, on compassionate grounds, that they should be given the same allowances, too," Pattison says.
Pattison believes that through the use of vaccination, testing, and PPE, his business can ensure that visitations happen safely.
"The industry can cater for extended bubbles, safely and carefully – but we need changes from the Government to make that possible," Pattison said.
"We ask the Government to urgently consider our older citizens, and its definition of 'compassionate grounds' for visitation, extending that to include what's necessary to support the positive mental health and wellbeing of aged-care residents."
The Government has taken a cautious approach with aged care residents, given this group is particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.
Pattison said he wants to work collaboratively with the Government to implement these changes and enable residents to reconnect with their loved ones.
The Government's announcement yesterday left the current level three settings in Auckland unchanged for another week.
"The country's lockdown measures were only ever intended to be a "hard and fast" solution but with Auckland now in its eighth week at higher alert levels and facing huge uncertainty as to when this lockdown might come to an end, it's clear that the goalposts have changed," Pattison said.
Pattison said that the tools to combat the virus have also changed.
Oceania prioritised vaccination for residents and staff and has seen levels above 90 per cent, he said.
Pattison believes that this combined with other safety measures could allow for aged care residents to safely connect with their families.