Life as a managed isolation facility

Hotel manager Niraj Kumar and our Ibis team.

Nine months ago the Ibis Tainui Hamilton Hotel became a Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facility (MIQ) and so began a whole new set of challenges and experiences for the hotel team.

In that time the hotel has housed more than 1200 returnees off 17 flights and come to grips with what it means to safely host and care for manuwhiri (guests) while managing the risks associated with the spread of a highly infectious disease.

We learnt very quickly that the managed isolation business is nowhere near how we run a normal hotel business, and it came with its own challenges,” says the hotel’s manager Niraj Kumar. “Our key focus remains on keeping the hotel operating, sustaining all our team members and ensuring the safety & wellbeing of our Ibis whaanau.

Niraj says that unfortunately the team has felt the effects of the stigma of working in a managed isolation facility, including some kaimahi being uninvited to community gatherings, functions or events. However, that is balanced against their pride in being entrusted to do the important job of providing exceptional care for all the returnees to keep everyone safe.

Adjusting to working with various other stakeholders now involved in the day-to-day operations of the hotel, including Waikato DHB kaimahi, the New Zealand Defence Force team, security guards and Police, also took some getting used to.

As a team, we did some work to articulate what being a MIQ facility meant. For us, it’s about providing a safe and welcoming environment to process New Zealanders and international visitors so that they can join the team of five million.

That’s our commitment – to take a collective, collaborative and co-operative approach to working with others in this fight against COVID-19.

The team’s “new norm” includes a heightened awareness of the risks of complacency. Their new motto is “I keep myself safe to keep you safe”.

Mental health and wellbeing workshops, a culture of kindness, empathy, respect and gratitude, prioritising effective communication, and regular team get-togethers are what help this team to remain healthy, upbeat and on top of their game.

The many letters and cards of gratitude and thanks from returnees definitely help too.

The dedication of our frontlines in MIQ is something I admire and will always be reminded of when I go out to the world.

The quality of care and attention I have experienced has been first class.

We were all welcomed with such big hearts and happy smiles. Every need was catered for and staff went out of their way to make our stay a pleasant one.

I am so grateful to be back in New Zealand and so grateful to each of you for your willingness to accept the risk of working in a managed isolation facility. I know it can’t be easy on you or your families, but it is deeply appreciated.

Every single one of you has become our Ibis Tainui family and we will be forever grateful. Everything you have done for us will never be forgotten.

We also acknowledge our kaimahi at the Novotel Tainui Auckland Airport Hotel, which is also operating as a MIQ facility.

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