Hauraki Herald

Covid no excuse for things long broken

- Virginia Fallon Opinion

The best excuse I ever had for being late to work involved a horse. We met one day in the middle of a busy road: me just starting the trip to the city and the horse appearing for all the world like it was doing the same.

It was clear, however, that this wasn’t an approved equine commute, so I pursued the horse for awhile, eventually shutting it behind a gate.

All in all a successful hour-long mission, except itwas undertaken while I was meant to be in the newsroom. Nobody believed my excuse until another reporter spotted a social media post vindicatin­g me: ‘‘There’s a horse in our garden. Anyone missing one?’’

A good excuse is amarvellou­s thing – especially when true – and if there’s one positive to come out of Covid-19 it’s the handy reasons it’s given us to get out of things. Coffee date? Can’t, runny nose. After-work drinks? Nah, slight temp.

Catch up for dinner? Soz, sore throat. It’s become the get-out-of-jail-free card for introverts everywhere and carries at worst only the threat of a nasal swab.

But although the virus has made it blessedly simple to excuse ourselves from social commitment­s, it’s also become the go-to justificat­ion for whymuch more important things are currently stuffed. Roading projects delayed? Blame Covid. Housing market gone mad? It’s the virus. Official informatio­n request extended? Soz, pandemic. It’s a convenient scapegoat for those in power but, while we roll our collective eyes at the excuses, they have very real impacts.

Recently, a disabled woman trapped in her bed for more than 16 hours had her situation excused, in part, because of the pandemic.

Beauche McGregor (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne) says her life has been ‘‘total chaos’’ over the past 18 months due to carers not showing up.

The 27-year-old has cerebral palsy and relies on caregivers to visit throughout the day to help with basic functions.

Being left in bed affects her skin and her health and is degrading, she says, adding that she worries others like her aren’t speaking up.

And although there’s been improved stability to her support since November, she fears someone could die unless the system is drasticall­y improved.

Her support provider, Healthcare­New Zealand, claims skills shortages exacerbate­d by Covid and a lack of government funding are to blame.

It’s convenient to use the pandemic for New Zealand’s shortage of healthcare workers, but the excuse is a red herring. Like many other industries, caregiving has long relied on overseas workers prepared to toil in the underfunde­d sector, and now that they can’t get through the border it’s a handy out.

A recent story about a couple forced apart after 64 years of marriage also highlights the human issue.

A shortage of support workers is blamed for keeping Peter James, 90, in ‘‘virtual isolation’’ in a care home, rather than at home with his wife. Being apart has left both of them lonely, depressed and frustrated.

The caregiving sectorwas broken long before the pandemic.

Caregiving is both underpaid and undervalue­d – typical of most jobs traditiona­lly performed by women – and it’s no surpriseNe­w Zealanders don’t want to do it.

Instead of blaming the shortage of internatio­nal labour, the Government and providers need to fund it properly, valuing both the workers and recipients of their care.

Keeping people in their homes is a nobrainer in terms of economics and humanwelfa­re.

As to the latter, it’s reminiscen­t of something we’ve heard umpteen times before.

Be kind, stay home, save lives. Remember that?

 ?? ?? Beauche McGregor was trapped in her bed for more than 16 hours when support workers did not show up.
Beauche McGregor was trapped in her bed for more than 16 hours when support workers did not show up.
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