“We have communicated to the authorities that our hotel is not ideal for families in quarantine who will need bigger space and additional facilities.”
The hotel, housing 311 guests in 223 of its rooms on Tuesday, had since been working with Queensland Health to help families seek other arrangements. It has a total capacity of 304 rooms.
Rebecca Schwarze spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights in quarantine at the hotel last week with her partner and four children, before being transferred across the river to Rydges South Bank.
The family spent the first night at an Ibis hotel after arriving on Monday as Next was not yet ready to accept guests, she said. On one occasion they were able to speak to reception during her stay, Ms Schwarze said she was told 300 people were under quarantine in the hotel despite it only being able to cope with a capacity of 150.
“We were absolutely the first people to be put into Next,” she said. “It is not [designed] for two weeks of family living.”
Michael, who asked to withhold his surname, has been at the hotel since Thursday. “They said that they could cater for 150,” he said. “The hotel is full.”
“[It’s] so hard to get on to reception as well.”
Another couple staying at the hotel with their 13-month-old son was told to source their own cot. A number of guests have reported being missed or forgotten about at multiple meal times and only receiving food after repeated unanswered calls to reception.
On Monday, some rooms were told to order Uber Eats for dinner because the chef had “gone home” after lunch, Michael said.
Requests to speak with the official Ms Schwarze understood was tasked to each quarantine hotel to help manage arrangements also went unanswered.
In a letter and survey circulated to quarantined guests, hotel acting general manager Alex Billing apologised to guests “unreservedly” for any difficulties they may have experienced.
“Since we started to host quarantine guests a few days ago, we acknowledge that we have had some teething issues,” Mr Billing wrote.
He added that the hotel had taken immediate steps to reduce waiting times for meals and offer a more balanced menu with attention to special dietary requirements, increase service staff and offer five complimentary laundry items a day for each room.
“There are still areas that we need to finetune our operations and we seek your kind co-operation to help us serve you better,” he said.
A dedicated 24-hour helpdesk has also been set up to address guests’ needs.
A Queensland Health spokeswoman said about 2300 hotel rooms were occupied by quarantined guests on Tuesday, but complaints regarding conditions should be directed to the hotel.
“All attempts have been made by the Queensland government to source suitable accommodation for quarantine purposes. Every attempt will be made to ensure the rooms meet the requirements of the individuals,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.
“Meals are included in the hotel quarantine cost, however, people are also able to order in food or other essentials, supermarket or pharmacy deliveries or have friends and family members drop off supplies and other items for them if required.
“We regularly review our contracts with accommodation providers to ensure the needs of people complying with our public health directions are being met.”
Queensland Police Service has been contacted for comment.
Responding to questions about hotel quarantine complaints on Monday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was up to the hotels to “step up” like they would for any other guest who raised concerns.
A total of 3227 people were quarantined in hotels across the state as of Monday, Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said – now a mandatory and self-funded step for all but a few exempt returning overseas and domestic travellers.
The state government still covers security costs for hotels, along with transport and logistics, while travellers are charged $135 for a hotel room and up to $65 a day for food.
People are then required to pay in full or enter into a payment plan within 30 days of being invoiced.
Full or partial fee waivers can be granted for international travellers who had confirmed return dates before June 17, along with vulnerable people or those suffering financial hardship.
Only 18 fee waivers had been granted as of Monday – all travellers returning from overseas.
-with Toby Crockford
Matt Dennien is a reporter with Brisbane Times.