After their sudden relocation from the town on account of Covid, residents of an aged-care facility in Reefton look set to return.

Reefton hospital is on track to welcome back its elderly residents in early June, according to community representatives monitoring the West Coast District Health Board’s plan to return them.

The 10 residents of Ziman House were moved at short notice last month to other rest homes in Greymouth, Hokitika and Christchurch to avoid what the DHB said was a potential staffing crisis as Covid spread.

It was also a chance to spruce up the facility and do some alterations, it said.

But the sudden move was described by some relatives as a “snatch and grab” with little warning given to caregivers and families.

Local man Graeme Neylon, who called a public meeting in the hope of preventing the temporary closure of the facility, says he’s optimistic it will reopen as promised.

“We’ve had two meetings with the DHB’s project team and we’ve had a look around inside and they are getting on with the job – putting in new carpet and drapes and a couple of bathrooms.”

One of the residents who was moved to Greymouth died last week and it’s unclear if another two taken to Christchurch will be well enough to return, Neylon says.

Beds in demand

But there is no shortage of demand for beds in a town with an ageing population.

Elderly locals hoping to eventually move into Ziman House have been contacting him anxious to know if they’ll be able to stay in their hometown when the time comes, Neylon says.

“We are hopeful. The DHB is fixing up 12 rooms – three of them are bigger and could each take a husband and wife. And they are interviewing for nursing staff and a clinical manager.”

Research by Development West Coast on the region’s economic strategy confirmed a shortage of aged-care beds, Neylon says.

“Here we have a facility that’s ready and waiting. We think it could take 20 people if the DHB develops the place to its full potential.”

Please explain

The Reefton aged-care home is one of the few in the country still owned and run by a district health board.

But West Coast DHB chair Rick Barker says board members were told nothing of the move until days before it happened.

The former Labour MP has issued a “please explain” message to management and assures Reefton people the closure of Ziman House will be brief.

“I have have asked for an independent inquiry into how this happened, how it got to this point.”

That investigation has not begun, Barker says, because he has yet to find an independent person to lead it.

DHBs around the country will have their last meetings in June, before they are disbanded and replaced by new national authorities Health NZ and Te Mana Hauora Māori.

Made with the support of the Public Interest Journalism Fund

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