MIQ hotel staff are told not to walk alone, and to hire security escorts to visit certain guests, due to the increased risk of violence.
Their unions say they are being attacked and abused via hotel phones.
A health and safety report presented to the Manukau DHB county board yesterday noted that MIQ hotels were home to a higher rate of people with substance dependence and other social problems.
He said that now there are fewer health personnel supporting them, as resources drawn from health boards across the country in September are returned to their own areas of work.
The rest reported more violence and aggression by the guests.
“Recently, in the last month, they’ve had people make them feel quite scared and angry,” said Shanna Reeder of the Unite Union, which represents MIQ hospitality workers.
She said the staff cohort didn’t have to interact with guests in person, but they were answering deceptive phone calls from people requesting deliveries to their rooms, then cursing and threatening them.
“Some of the requests are unreasonable, or it is not possible to help the guest with that particular problem, so, unfortunately, guests can get quite abusive to staff members,” he said.
“It’s worth keeping in mind that these are hospitality workers, hotel workers. They are used to dealing with people who can be difficult. But this is a completely different level where people feel really scared and quite intimidated by some of these guests. “
Last month it emerged that some guests had been directing violence in their vicinity, with five damaged rooms at the Jet Park Quarantine Hotel.
One had several broken appliances, a broken curtain track, and holes in the window and door.
Nurses Society director David Wills said an increase in the number of people abruptly transferring to MIQ was at the root of the problem.
Unlike the returnees, he said they couldn’t spend weeks or months preparing for their stay.
“They are people who do not want to be there, and in part they are people who are there in difficult circumstances. A high proportion of them are there because they are contacts of people or because, alternatively, they are positive themselves. And many of them are anti -vaccines, they wouldn’t be there if they had been vaccinated in the first place. They have some of the aggressive behaviors that we’re seeing, “he said.
However, New Zealand Nurses Organization organizer Sharleen Rapoto said it was “really shocking” to learn that violence against nurses had continued, first becoming a problem months ago.
He said there had already been many “quite disturbing” cases of violence against nurses.
“They yelled at them, swore at them, spat, kicked, hit, grabbed aggressively and just hurled insults. [at], called names. I know that some of our members have experienced some racist comments, “he said.
Rapoto said MIQ health and safety representatives and welfare advisers had been appointed to combat the rise in violence.
Yesterday’s report to the Manukau County Board of Health set out further changes.
He said that health personnel had been “informed not to walk the floors alone” and that every day they received a list of people of interest or “POIs” at the hotel, whom they should pay attention to.
They “must be escorted by an AVSEC or other security person when checking vital signs or other face-to-face interactions with a POI,” he said.
The report said more staff was being hired and “managing” the rosters.
Police said they had also deployed more staff to MIQ hotels in recent weeks in response to the Delta outbreak, but it was not in response to the increase in violence.