By PHILIP CHANDLER
A TERMINALLY-ill Queenstown chef can’t get an emergency visa home from Australia despite needing to return for urgent medical attention — a situation labelled ‘‘inhumane’’ this week by both his boss and the local MP.
Due to his health problems, chef Tom Hardes, 43, who’s had brain and spinal cancer for
five years, escaped Queenstown’s winter for a three-month break in warmer Western Australia.
He was due back in September, but got stuck due to Covid travel restrictions, despite the state being Covid-free.
His oncologist then wrote a letter ‘to whom it may concern’, saying he’d gone away with three months’ supply of oral chemotherapy, but needed more chemo by late September.
‘‘It is now urgent that he return to New Zealand in order to obtain and continue his chemotherapy, without which his cancer will regrow.’’
Despite this advice, and despite being double-vaxxed, Hardes say he’s been turned down an emergency managed isolation and quarantine, or MIQ, slot.
Treatment of chef labelled “heartless”
MIQ’s emergency allocation team last month told him: ‘‘From the information provided, we are not satisfied that you have time-critical scheduled medical treatment which is unavailable and inaccessible in your current location which requires urgent travel to NZ.’’
However, apart from running out of chemo he’s now also struggling to get methadone prescribed to keep his pain at bay.
He’s also steadily running out of money, as he’s got living costs in Australia, still pays rent in Queenstown, and also has to fork out for weekly physio to keep his leg muscles from locking up.
Hardes says he’s so far applied about eight times for an MIQ spot, and when he did get to the front of the queue, ‘‘they said I had too many windows open and I had to go to the back of the queue’’.
In his latest setback, he’d been due to fly back to NZ early next month, but this week was told his flight’s been cancelled.
Doubtless, however, he’ll be relieved the government yesterday announced vaxxed Kiwis can return from Oz, without MIQ, from January 16.
Meantime, Hardes’ boss, Flame restaurant co-owner Lou McDowell says: ‘‘It’s inhumane
how sports stars and entertainers get entry, but not a terminally-ill, hard-working resident who has contributed to our community and paid his taxes for 10 years or more.
‘‘It’s completely heartless.’’
She says he’s ‘‘a huge asset to Flame’’.
‘‘He’s just unfortunately got sicker and sicker.
‘‘He’s amazing, really, most people in his situation wouldn’t be going back to work, but he likes work, it gives him purpose, and he likes to keep moving.
‘‘We’re just trying to find what ever we can for him.’’
Local MP Joseph Mooney, speaking before yesterday’s government announcement, says:
‘‘Very shortly, the Prime Minister is going to allow people from Auckland to travel around NZ, yet it won’t allow someone from a Covid-free part of Australia, who is fully-vaccinated and will be tested either side of the trip, to come back home to get critical medication.
‘‘That is quite frankly in humane.’’
‘Didn’t provide supporting information’
MIQ’S joint head Chris Bunny says its emergency allocation process exists for limited situations requiring urgent travel to NZ within the following 14 days — it’s received 12,000-plus applications since October 30 last year.
‘‘This is a last-resort option with a very high threshold,’’ designed to accommodate those needing time-critical medical treatment, scheduled in NZ, which isn’t available or accessible
where they are now.
Bunny says Hardes has made only one MIQ emergency allocation application, on September 30.
‘‘On 5 October, MIQ asked Mr Hardes to provide the support ing information to confirm he cannot obtain or access the scheduled time-critical treatment in his current location.
‘‘Mr Hardes did not provide this supporting information, and his application was therefore declined.’’
Bunny says they’ve advised Hardes that if he has the info requested, he can resubmit his application.