Quarantined travellers in Auckland hotel complain of poor food, rude staff

Various people have complained to the hotel about the food.
Various people have complained to the hotel about the food. Photo credit: Supplied

An elderly woman quarantined in an Auckland hotel says staff refused to provide her with the adequate diet she needs for health reasons until she complained to the Ministry of Health.

Paulette Clark, who suffers from severe Crohn's disease, has been staying in Auckland's Crowne Plaza hotel since she arrived back in New Zealand from the United States on April 20.

During her stay however, the 79-year-old says staff at the hotel refused to provide her with the food she needs to stay healthy.

"When I first moved in here I went to the desk and told them that I needed a certain diet...nothing uncooked, simply cooked vegetables and meats, etc and no spices," Clark told Newshub. 

Despite multiple complaints, however, staff refused to meet her request, even telling her "as long as I was here at Government expense I would eat what I was given".

"Four times since the 20th of April [I've said] please, please this is the diet I need, stop sending me fresh fruit, stop sending me grains - it will endanger my health and possibly put me in the hospital."

She says she finally decided to contact someone from the Ministry of Health who was "appalled" at the situation.

"It's not right. People who are on special diets should be catered to wherever possible," Clark said.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said each hotel was in charge of the food they served those quarantined there. 

"Where very specific dietary needs have been identified special food items are supplied."

The spokesperson said the ministry conducts periodic reviews to make sure hotels "meet expected levels of nutrition".

According to data from the ministry, there are currently 3053 people in managed isolation in hotels, and 126 people in quarantine in hotels.

Clark said since complaining to the ministry on Tuesday, her situation is better, but the same couldn't be said for others in the hotel.

"For me it's improved but it doesn't look like it has for anybody else."

Auckland Emergency Management, who is part of Auckland Council and work to ensure there's coordination of civil defence and emergency management services in its area, told Newshub in a statement the health and wellbeing of those in isolation is its "primary concern", but it can be difficult to cater to hundreds of people's needs every day.

"Catering three meals a day, seven days a week to our guests in managed isolation is a huge undertaking. Each hotel has in the region of 300 guests, so that's close to 1000 meals a day. When a guest has a genuine dietary requirement that they have disclosed, it is managed. However, it isn't always possible to serve people the food they would like to eat at every meal during their stay," Group Controller Kate Crawford says.

"We rely on guests disclosing their health requirements at daily health checks and will work with them to provide alternatives or solutions to their needs as much as we can."

She added guests can order supplies from the supermarket or use food delivery companies now New Zealand is at alert level 3.

Another person quarantined in the hotel says they were told "to order Uber eats" when they complained to the front desk.

"They were quite rude," the man, who wished to remain anonymous, told Newshub.

"Last night I just had one piece of broccoli, one piece of cauliflower and a very small chicken, about as small a size as my palm and it was more bone than meat.

"Hospital food would be a lot better." 

The experience of those in Crowne Plaza differs greatly from reports from other hotels, where people have been so impressed with the meals they have taken to social media to share images of their food.

Clark, who lives in Ashburton, said not only the poor meals but the way she has been treated by staff in general has been tough.

"It's probably the first time in my life I've ever felt like I'm a second-class citizen."

The Crowne Plaza has been approached for comment.