Rest home residents call on Ministry of Health for increased coronavirus testing

The Government won't commit to targeted testing at rest homes despite another death and another case on Friday being linked to clusters at older care facilities.

Aged care residents and advocates are calling the lack of policy "backwards" and "stupid" and are calling for increased testing.

Summerset Manukau resident Trevor Penny says he is most concerned the Ministry of Health won't even test all of the new residents going into rest homes.

"It's important that they have the ability to be able to be tested if they require it," Penny says.

Currently, the only elderly residents tested are those who are already displaying COVID-19 symptoms and Penny says this doesn't make sense.

"I would suggest that it's a bit backward, but it might also be that the regime doesn’t have the facility to be able to do extra random testing."

But the lack of testing in rest homes isn't due to a shortage or lack of resources like swabs, the Ministry of Health says almost 7000 tests were completed yesterday which was another record.

The Ministry has also developed a more targeted testing plan but Aged Care Association CEO Simon Wallace says this doesn't seem to be including rest homes.

"They haven't been talking to us directly about the testing and that's really disappointing.

"The Prime Minister's talking about getting a test if you've got a sniffle or a sore throat. 

"Our people have chronic underlying health conditions. It seems completely unreasonable and simply stupid that they can't get a test."

The Ministry's argument against testing new rest home entrants is that they could test negative, but still harbour the disease, but rest homes are already taking precautions like isolating all new residents.

Summerset Manukau Manager Dave Nicholls says they have taken every precaution to keep residents safe. 

"There's always that fear that it could get into the village and we've taken every precaution we can to prevent that from happening".

Bob Williams, another Summerset resident, also wants more testing especially if that means he can see his wife in person, who's upstairs in the hospital wing.

"Her health is not good. She's very frail, but she is still mentally very alert."

Williams says he's lived his life but wants to end it, in comfort.

"Frankly the thought of being confined to a room month after month isn't exactly a good exit strategy."

He wants to develop his own strategy and more testing could make that happen.