Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: 14 retirement village bosses meeting for pandemic discussions

Measures to control the Delta variant’s potential threat to some of the 47,000-plus most vulnerable New Zealanders in retirement villages is prompting bosses in the sector to meet today.

John Collyns, executive director of the Retirement Villages Association, said that in a similar move during the last alert level 4, around 14 industry representatives would meet virtually.

Pandemic control measures during this alert level 4 are likely to be at the top of the agenda for discussion.

The Ministry of Health data shows 22.9 per cent of New Zealanders are vaccinated.

Last month, the JLL NZ retirement villages and aged-care whitepaper written by a team including senior research analyst Lisa Chen found the sector expanding fast. New Zealand’s rapidly “greying” population has resulted in 47,249 people living in retirement villages, up on 45,000 people a year ago.

Those meeting are association president and Generus Group director Graham Wilkinson, vice-president Michelle Burke who is a partner at Anthony Harper Lawyers, Metlifecare’s Maggie Owens who is a non-executive director, Summerset Group chief executive Scott Scoullar, Arvida Group chief executive Jeremy Nicoll, Metlifecare chief executive Earl Gasparich, Oceania Group chief executive Brent Pattison, Bupa Healthcare chief executive Carolyn Cooper, Acacia Cove manager Bruce Cullington, Selwyn Foundation chief executive Jason More, Qestral Corporation director Simon O’Dowd,Ryman Healthcare chief financial officer David Bennett, independent member Tracy Martin and Collyns.

The Australian Department of Health said by August 6, 2088 residents cases of Covid-19 outbreaks were recorded in residential aged care facilities.

In New South Wales, all residential age care facilities are being monitored through the NSW Aged Care State Health Emergency Operations Centre.

A Commonwealth Health Departmental officer is embedded with the NSW State Health Emergency Operations Centre, with additional supports activated as the need arises.

Collyns indicated the focus for all villages run by the New Zealand bosses was keeping Covid – and particularly the Delta variant – out.

“We are working on our advice to members and note the Prime Minister updated mandatory mask-wearing. The Ministry of Health has also updated advice for villages and aged care which we are incorporating into our advice,” Collyns said from Wellington.

“We have set up a time for the executive to meet and depending on the course of the lockdown, we will review whether this is an ongoing event.”

That was a reference to alert level 4 which first came in towards the end of March last year when the village bosses began a series of regular meetings.

The villages are responding strongly to the threat.

Ryman Healthcare this week told residents all villages would be closed to visitors and residents should stick to the level 4 rules, which means staying in their household bubble.

“Visits to our care residents who are in palliative or end-of-life care can continue. Just get in touch with your village team if this applies to you,” it said.

Residents were asked to “please bear with us while we get our systems up and running again”.

“We know you strongly support a cautious approach and we also know that the Delta strain of Covid-19 is extremely infectious. We can’t be too careful,” Ryman told residents.

“The good news is that we have had an overwhelmingly positive response to our vaccination programme, and more than 28,000 vaccinations have been administered to our residents and team members.”

Ryman revealed last November it had spent $50m on its pandemic response to protect residents and staff, despite no Covid among 12,000 residents and 6100 staff.

Since January last year, that has been the cost to the Christchurch-headquartered Australasian retirement village developer and owner, which is New Zealand’s biggest business in the listed sector.

Chief executive Gordon MacLeod said late last year the pandemic had increased costs and restricted sales and construction activity in key markets.

“It has been a tough six months due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic, which increased costs substantially and restricted our ability to sell in key markets during the extended lockdowns.”

Other listed and unlisted operators told residents of closed gates from last night when the lockdown took effect.

Summerset said: “All visitors will be screened at the main gate. You will be turned away if you are not essential. Critical supplies [eg. groceries or medical prescriptions] can be left by family at our main village entrances. Please label drop-offs clearly with the name of the resident they are intended for and we will deliver them.”

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