600 aged care beds lost after quakes
Christchurch Earthquake 2011
Canterbury's earthquakes showed how resilient the region's elderly are, but communication issues and record-keeping at aged care facilities need to be improved in case of a future disaster, a conference has heard.
Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) nurse co-ordinator Rebecca Hickmott told the College of Nurses Aotearoa symposium in Christchurch today that Christchurch lost more than 600 of its aged care beds following the February 2011 earthquake.
Nine facilities were destroyed or evacuated because of unsafe conditions and more than 500 elderly people were relocated to 125 facilities in other parts of Canterbury and New Zealand.
The CDHB came under fire for moving people without enough family consultation, but Hickmott said many families could not be contacted because phone lines were down or the records kept by the aged care facilities were not up-to-date.
The board decided the quake would ''not be another Hurricane Katrina, meaning we will not leave elderly people to die, like in the States'', and moved people quickly, she said.
''These were families who were terribly distressed. The majority of people were incredibly understanding and grateful ... but it was tough.''
An expert panel was formed to determine who would move back to Christchurch first as beds became available, prioritising the decisions on the person's clinical, social and compassionate needs.
All residents who wanted to return were back in Christchurch by December last year, she said.
Hickmott praised the ''amazing resilience'' of Christchurch's elderly people and the ''incredible work'' that was done by aged care facilities during the quake's aftermath.
However, there were always lessons to learn, including the need for aged care facilities to keep up-to-date records and a review of evacuation and transport methods, she said.
University of Otago, Christchurch, research fellow Claire Heppenstall interviewed elderly people and their carers about their evacuation experiences after the February 2011 earthquake.
She told The Press her main finding was that elderly people were ''very resilient and they coped very well''.
Local support from the communities they moved to had been ''really important'' and should be a recommendation in case of future disasters, she said.
The CDHB's travel subsidy to family members also helped both the relocated person and their family cope with the situation.
She said the main challenge from the quake related to communication issues between the rest homes that were sending people away and those that were receiving them.
''Records [were] buried under rubble or liquefaction, they didn't have much time, obviously phones were down, power was down. It was a very difficult situation, but it's something that needs to be thought about,'' she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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