COVID-19: Rest homes say they're still not getting enough PPE

Rest homes throughout New Zealand are back in full lockdown. The idea is to keep them safe, while attempting to keep the virus out.

The sector has been planning for another potential outbreak since the virus tore through five rest homes three months ago.

So, are they ready? Newshub spoke to providers about how they've been preparing.

Alison Aitken's last visit to see her 90-year-old mum Margaret at her retirement village was on Tuesday.

"How do I feel about her going back into lockdown? Annoyed, it's annoying but no surprise I suppose," she says.

She doesn't know when she'll be allowed back inside the Golden Age Retirement village to see her face to face.

"I'm hoping it won't be too long, yeah, but we're all hoping it won't be too long," she tells Newshub.

No one's allowed in, and no one's allowed out. It's the first step in safe-guarding elderly residents from the deadly COVID-19 virus, an order from the Prime Minister who told all aged care facilities to close their doors to everyone except staff and essential deliveries.

The aged care sector is ready - but are the government agencies that are supposed to support them?

"Where we are concerned is the support from the Ministry of Health and the District Health Boards and we would like to see more urgency," says Simon Wallace, CEO of the NZ Aged Care Association.

Urgency like availability and supply of personal protection equipment (PPE).

"We are still seeing problems with our rest homes being able to have the necessary supply of PPE that they need in case of an outbreak," Wallace adds.

An independent review was conducted following the deadly Rosewood Cluster in Christchurch where 11 people died.

One of the recommendations was to complete processes for PPE supply, stock management, and guidance but not until January next year - that's five months away.

"Those time frames need to be brought forward. We need to have action on PPE supply right now, we can't wait until January 2021," Wallace says.

Golden Age Retirement Village has stockpiled.

"We've just done an audit of our PPE a couple of days ago and we feel we've got enough PPE gear to get us through," says David Sidaway, general manager of Golden Healthcare Group.

But some aren't getting any at all.

"Our rest homes need 14-days supply of PPE and we're being told by some DHBs that PPE will only be provided when there is a COVID-19 outbreak and that is not good enough," Wallace says.

In a statement, the Canterbury District Health Board says they've had an adequate supply of PPE at all times throughout the pandemic, and have been working with the Ministry of Health guidelines when distributing PPE.

Newshub asked the Director-General of Health how much PPE there was to go around - he didn't know.

"I don't have numbers for PPE at the moment but we have a large supply and we have more coming in all the time," Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

Rest homes are locked down and on high alert.

"We have to be vigilant and we have to be ready," Wallace says.

Calling for urgency and action from health authorities to protect our most vulnerable.