DHB checking on safety of Christchurch rest home residents after 'unbelievable' lack of air conditioning in heatwave

George Manning Lifecare.
George Manning Lifecare. Photo credit: Google Maps

Canterbury DHB has made contact with a Christchurch rest home after a resident's daughter complained a lack of air conditioning had left him bed-ridden as he sweltered in the heat.

The woman, who does not want to be identified to protect her father, says the lack of air conditioning at George Manning Lifecare in Spreydon meant her father was confined to his bed all day on Tuesday, as temperatures were so high he couldn't do anything else.

Christchurch has sweltered above 30C every day this week, according to MetService, peaking at 37.1C on Tuesday and 36C on Wednesday as scorching summer heat set in over the city.

But with no air conditioning units to cool the George Manning Lifecare rest home down, staff turned to fans, ice blocks, hydration and opening doors to stop their elderly residents from overheating.

"It's way too hot in the high-30s for elderly residents. It's unbelievable, really - we're talking about the most vulnerable people in society," the woman lamented.

"George Manning offers hospital-level care for people with a range of medical issues, but there's no air conditioning. All my father could do was lie on the bed - he was just so hot.

"To me, it seems to fall very, very short for elderly and vulnerable people… I think it needs looking into, and I don't think they should get away with it."

The woman told Newshub she first raised concerns about a lack of air conditioning with staff at the facility about a year ago, but it's always fallen on deaf ears.

However she doesn't lay blame with staff, who she says are just doing their best in the conditions. She says the problem ought to be solved by Heritage Lifecare, the residential aged care company that owns the rest home.

"It's a head office and money thing… This is a business."

In defending the rest home's lack of air conditioning, Heritage Lifecare chief executive Norah Barlow said it was an older building and that "older skin doesn't react well" to it.

She told Newshub staff at George Manning rest home were doing all they could to keep residents cool during these "few freak days" of scorching heat, including providing ice blocks.

"There's nothing we can do about the weather, we just keep people as comfortable as possible," she said.

"What's important is making sure they [residents] are ventilated well. They get through with a bit of fun. We'll get over this in a couple of days."

Barlow acknowledged it's hard for residents to stay cool when Christchurch gets scorching temperatures like it has over the last few days, but said the searing heat will pass soon and staff are doing the best they can.

"We make sure there's fans around, make sure people are kept in cool areas, make sure curtains are kept closed and fluids are kept up," she said.

Following a request for comment by Newshub, Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) Rose Wall told Newshub it would be looking into the safety of the rest home.

She acknowledged the weather conditions in Christchurch have been "extraordinary", but said that's not an excuse for lower standards of care.

"It is important that these vulnerable residents continue to receive good-quality health care and that the facility has put in place appropriate measures to keep their elderly consumers as comfortable as possible and, more importantly, safe and well," Wall said.

"The HDC has made contact with the Ministry of Health and they are requesting Canterbury DHB follow-up with the facility on the concerns raised to ensure the environment is safe for the residents.

"Keeping these elderly residents safe and well is the immediate priority."

The HDC encouraged anyone concerned about the care they or others have experienced to make an official complaint.