Retirement village lift a ‘danger’ to residents

Residents of a local retirement village are frustrated as their demands to replace a dangerous elevator fall on deaf ears.

The 19-year-old lift at MetlifeCare Pakuranga Village regularly breaks down and elderly residents often find themselves trapped inside.

When the lift breaks down at MetlifeCare Pakuranga, elderly residents are forced to use steep stairs which become wet and slippery when it rains. Photo: Supplied.

Angela Scott, whose mother moved into the Pakuranga Village eight years ago, says the residents deserve better.

“The lift is always being repaired for one reason or another and it’s just not good enough,” she says.

“On one occasion that I know of, a 90-year-old lady got stuck and had a panic attack in the lift.

“She is an asthmatic and didn’t have her puffer with her as she only went down to check her letter box. She was short of breath when they got to her and needed her puffer.”

Scott says while she is pleased the emergency phone in the lift gets answered quickly however the elevator lights turn off after a few minutes leaving the occupants in complete darkness.

When the lift is out of action, the only other way of getting to and from the upstairs apartments is two flights of stairs.

“The stairs are completely exposed to the elements, so the hand rails get slippery when it rains and the steps and landings pool with water which is so dangerous,” Scott says.

Scott says her 76-year-old mother is still receiving ongoing treatment for injuries she sustained when she fell down the village stairs in 2012.

She says the “final straw” was receiving a distressed call from her mother when she became stuck in the lift once again earlier this year.

“It was only around five minutes but that was too long,” Scott says.

In the nine days following this incident, the lift broke down four more times.

The landing outside the elevator at Metlifecare Pakuranga has been collecting large puddles of water which pose a safety risk for residents. Photo supplied.

Scott says in the most recent lift breakdown during the thunderstorm on February 10, the repairman from Otis Elevator Company deemed the lift too dangerous to fix at the time due to water going down the lift shaft.

“[Metlifecare] pour so much money into the new villages, which have brand new indoor elevators, while this lift is too dangerous to even repair when it’s raining,” Scott says.

Scott was told by WorkSafe NZ that the Pakuranga village is deemed independent living quarters meaning residents should be able to get themselves around without assistance from a caregiver.

According to WorkSafe, the lift can’t be labelled as mandatory operational access when the stairs are a viable alternative for what’s classified as independent residents.

WorkSafe says it will oversee the way Metlifecare manage the risk of slips and falls.

It has been suggested that residents who struggle with the stairs move to a ground floor apartment, but Scott says this is an expensive venture.

“They will get back what they put into the unit less 30 per cent, then they have to purchase the ground floor unit at current value,” Scott says.

“My mum purchased hers eight years ago for $270,000. They are now selling for around $500,000.”

Richard Callander, general manager operations for Metlifecare Pakuranga, says the safety and well-being of all residents and staff is a top priority.

“We have undertaken an assessment of the lift by WorkSafe who, in discussions with our lift maintenance operators Otis, declared the lift to be operationally safe,” Callander says.

“The lift has been regularly maintained over the years with any repairs carried out as speedily as possible. We understand the issues are within the normal range expected.”

He says the village has recently appointed an independent lift consultant to review the lift and provide a recommendation on its operation.

“The seven independent residents with first floor apartments have access to a recently repaired and well-maintained stairwell, with good hand rails and non-slip treads, if the lift is temporarily out of action.

“As well, staff ensure they communicate any changes to the residents affected as soon as anything occurs and provide assistance when needed,” he says.

“We are absolutely committed to the safety of all residents and the ongoing continued maintenance and safety of the village.”

Callander says they will continue working with the maintenance company and independent consultants until everyone, including the residents are satisfied.