NZ man stranded overseas, faces loss of arm after being turned down for MIQ voucher

Author
Belinda Feek, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 8 Nov 2020, 9:43AM
A New Zealand man is stuck in the Maldives with a serious arm injury after being unable to gain entry back into his home country. Photo / 123RF
A New Zealand man is stuck in the Maldives with a serious arm injury after being unable to gain entry back into his home country. Photo / 123RF

NZ man stranded overseas, faces loss of arm after being turned down for MIQ voucher

Author
Belinda Feek, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 8 Nov 2020, 9:43AM

 Kiwi man who suffered a horrific injury working on a boat in the Maldives faces permanent loss of the use of his left arm if he's not allowed back home for medical treatment.

The incident and four refusals from the Government agency in charge of managed isolation has left the 27-year-old's mother, Julie Milham, angry and frustrated at what she calls "unhumanitarian" treatment of her son.

Milham said her son, who did not want to be named, had been working overseas for about four years and most recently in the Maldives on a boat.

On October 27, he suffered a horrific workplace injury on the boat after a rope became wrapped around his left arm.

He was immediately taken to hospital for "emergency limb-saving surgery".

The injury was so severe that the wound had to be left open for a couple of days to help relieve the pressure and swelling.

Due to the seriousness of his injury and ongoing treatment and physiotherapy, it was decided to send him home. A flight was booked but by the time he went to board he was refused entry as he didn't have a managed isolation voucher.

The Government's new allocation system went live last month. Last week it became law for all travellers into the country to have one for their isolation, otherwise they won't be allowed to board their flight.

However, all spots in managed isolation are now booked leading up to Christmas.

Milham said both she and her son's employer had pleaded with MBIE for the granting of an emergency voucher but had been repeatedly declined.

Due to the fragility of the injury, the wound's dressing needed to be changed every second day and also checked for infection.

His stitches need to be removed on November 9.

At the moment, Milham said his employer was picking him up and taking him to hospital in Male for the dressing changes.

The last she heard from MBIE was asking whether family or a friend could stay with him in his hotel and do the dressing changes, but Milham said she had to work and there was no one else available to help.

"I can't, I've got a job and everyone else has jobs ... but apparently they've got doctors and nurses all over the managed isolation and he would just need his dressings changed.

"He can eat with one hand, so just get him a hotel room."

She was unsure if that was a reason for the denial, but if it was she called it a "cop-out".

"It's disgraceful. They're just trying to cover themselves now with that question. That is just a cop-out on their behalf. They've been told that he's over there managing his hygiene and eating but he needs that care and ongoing rehab asap otherwise he's going to lose the use of his left arm.

"And then, the Government is going to have to pay him a shitload of money because he won't be able to work, so they need to think about the ongoing ramifications of this for just a simple voucher."

She dubbed the decision to deny him entry to his home country "unhumanitarian and disgraceful".

"My son is sitting alone in a hotel room trying to look after himself with one arm, medicating himself to relieve the excruciating pain he is in, watching the airport close by as each flight he has had to cancel flies away without him ... disgraceful.

"Where are the extra 2000 spare beds they keep telling us about for such emergencies, where are they?"

Her frustration was further cemented after reading that Tall Blacks player Tom Vodanovich and his girlfriend were granted a waiver after getting stranded in Dubai on their way home this week.

"The whole MIQ system is an absolute disgrace, so totally disorganised and unhelpful to say the least. I have cried my heart out over the phone totally devastated to so many different MIQ call centre staff, now I have no tears left."

A Managed Isolation and Quarantine spokesperson wouldn't comment on the man's case but said the emergency allocation criteria were very restrictive. As a last-resort option, the threshold for approval was extremely high.

"We are very sympathetic to the distressing and heartbreaking situations of people applying for an emergency allocation on compassionate grounds. But – at this period of peak demand - the criteria for granting an Emergency Allocation is limited to if there is an imminent threat to your life or serious risk to health, which requires urgent travel to New Zealand."

Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis but the spokesperson said it was expected very few approvals would be granted.

The spokesperson said reports of 2000 beds in managed isolation being unoccupied were not accurate as capacity was measured in people, not rooms.

There were also certain numbers of rooms that were always unavailable.

"For example – rooms undergoing deep cleaning in between guests or rooms put aside for quarantine, to accommodate mariners in transit, deportees and aircrew as well as a small contingency to ensure we have capacity to move people in the event of an emergency at one of our facilities."