A woman "broke into" an aged care facility, filming as she went, complaining about Radius Care's decision to lock down all their homes to keep New Zealand's most vulnerable people safe.
The extraordinary incident was recounted by Radius managing director and founder Brien Cree after Radius Care's 22 facilities around the country locked out all visitors, leading an industry-wide offensive to ensure the safety of elderly residents.
But one woman decided the lockdown was counter to her needs. So, said Cree, she left home at 6.30am, filming all the way, including on the road to the Radius Care home – completely ignorant of the possible risk she was causing to the resident she wanted to visit, and to others.
"When she got there, she broke in and then walked around the outside of the facility trying to open doors, filming herself and complaining that we were taking away her rights. She then got through a kitchen door and walked through the kitchen, with no protective gear, until she was picked up and asked to leave.
"She did, filming and abusing staff, and then she posted the whole thing on the internet," said Cree. "It was an incredibly stupid and unreasonable act, potentially putting other people at risk – but it did have a positive side as I was able to send the video out to all our facilities and managers as an example of the kind of thing we have to guard against."
Radius Care's decision to restrict access to its premises around the country was taken about a week before the official word to do so came from the Ministry of Health – and Cree says Radius have been at the forefront of protecting aged care residents.
"We took a bit of flak for it at first," he said, "but we didn't just rely on what the ministry and other sources were telling us, we did our own research on Covid-19 and how it works and we knew we had to make decisions and take steps to keep our residents safe.
"Believe me, I know from being at my mother's side for the last 24 hours of her life, how important that is – and I respect it. It's tough on some residents, I know, and family members who don't have access to loved ones. But we have a duty of care and we have to exercise that.
"We are looking after the most vulnerable people in our society."
The rationale for the lockdown was to do everything possible to keep the virus out of the 22 homes, Cree said.
Every day staff arrive, they are asked to fill in a questionnaire that covers areas like whether they have symptoms and where they have been and who they have seen in recent days.
"If there is something from those questions that is not 100 per cent clear, we immediately assess whether that staff member can stay on site," he said. "They all know that if a family member gets sick, we expect to know about it before that staff member walks into the facility."
Radius Care homes post regular Facebook updates (@RadiusCareNZ) and send out regular updates to family members so they can be advised of their loved one's status. Cree said anyone unhappy with being unable to visit are advised to ring him or a staff member.
"We had about six calls to begin with but they have been dropping off and we haven't had any in the last couple of days," he said. "I think people are generally accepting that they do not want to be in this position – but they have no choice."
Cree says the ministry have been "supportive" and his staff have been "amazing".