Coronavirus: Human Rights Commission advice on aged care facilities criticised for coming 'too late'

Advice from the Human Rights Commission for aged care facilities is being described as too little, too late.

The commision has released four questions for people to ask residential facilities to ensure proper COVID-19 processes are in place.

But aged care commentator Sally Keeling says the advice was needed six weeks ago.

"It may be a little late for these questions - particularly for people who are already in long-term care situations, they read rather more like somebody who's coming into a care situation," Keeling told Newshub.

According to the Human Rights Commission, the questions people should ask facilities caring for your loved ones are:

  • What cleaning, hygiene or other processes are in place to keep my friend or family member safe from COVID-19?
  • What are you doing to protect your staff, to keep them safe and to make sure they do not place others in your facility at risk of COVID-19? 
  • If someone in your facility was diagnosed with COVID-19 what would you do to care for them and for others in your facility?
  • How can my family member communicate with whānau and friends during the lockdown?

The information comes after a number of deaths linked to clusters of COVID-19 in aged care facilities. 

On Tuesday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed there had been a further death due to coronavirus after a woman in her 70s passed away in Waitakere Hospital. The woman was one of six positive COVID-19 residents from St Margaret's rest home in Auckland who had been transferred to hospital recently. 

Her death follows a number of other fatalities linked to a COVID-19 cluster at Rosewood Rest Home in Christchurch.

Keesing says there needs to be more focus on how aged care facilities should manage the transition out of lockdown.

"What is restricted visiting, what does it mean in aged residential care? Maybe the Human Rights Commission would have views on that," she said.

"I do hear that there's public interest in using testing to increase our level of confidence as we become a more open community again."

COVID-19 has spread to seven aged care facilities throughout the country, affecting many of New Zealand's most vulnerable.

Chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt says that spread will be of "deep concern to those who have loved ones in residential care".

"There needs to be a high level of transparency and accountability from care providers and people who operate residential facilities," Hunt said.

Earlier this month, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier announced a series of targeted inspections of aged care facilities would be undertaken to provide an independent assessment of how they are responding to COVID-19.

There have been 13 COVID-19-related deaths in New Zealand and 1445 confirmed or probable cases of the virus recorded.