Ten staff and residents at a western Sydney aged care home have tested positive to COVID-19 after a staff member worked at the facility while infectious.
The state’s chief health officer is urging people working in aged care to be sensitive to any change in their health while the police commisisoner says officers will visit the facility today.
The permanent part-time female worker at Anglicare’s Newmarch House in Caddens near Penrith tested positive for COVID-19 on 11 April after working six shifts while experiencing mild symptoms including a “scratchy throat”.
The first resident tested positive on 12 April.
There are now six staff and four residents from Newmarch House who have tested positive, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant told a press conference on Wednesday morning.
She said the worker with the first case was incredibly distraught about the circumstances.
“As you aware the case reported there was in a healthcare worker who worked while she had very mild symptoms.
“I have spoken to the director of the public health unit and this person is absolutely mortified,” Dr Chant told the press conference.
Dr Chant urged people working in aged care to remember that symptoms of COVID could be incredibly mild and to have an “incredibly high awareness of even minor changes” in their health.
“It doesn’t matter how mild those symptoms are – runny nose, sore throat, just a scratchy throat in this case – please don’t go to work.”
The aged care worker also worked two shifts at Greystanes Disability Services in Jamisontown, where four residents are now being isolated in their own rooms and six staff are in self-isolation, NSW Health said.
The 31 staff members and 66 residents at Newmarch House are in isolation and visitor restrictions are in place.
“All staff have been directed to wear full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when caring for residents,” Anglicare said in a statement on 13 April.
Anglicare is deploying staff specially trained in working with COVID-19 to work solely with residents who test positive, it said.
Police to visit facility today
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told Wednesday’s press conference that police officers would visit the facility to talk to management.
“At this stage I don’t think it is necessary to talk to the nurse, but at the same time in the interests of transparency we will go there today,” Mr Fuller said.
The key question is around reckless intent and it appears there wasn’t any, Mr Fuller said.
“If we were concerned we would launch an investigation, but at this stage with the information that has been provided, there was no malice in there at all.”
Anglicare provides COVID prevention strategy
The facility implemented its outbreak procedures after the NSW Public Health Unit notified it at 10.40pm on Saturday 11 April that a staff member was positive.
The staff member was asymptomatic, Anglicare told Australian Ageing Agenda in a statement.
Anglicare began screening all sites including head office soon after activating its COVID-19 Prevention and Management Procedure at the beginning of March 2020.
“This meant that on entering the home all staff, visitors, contractors, and volunteers would be required to answer the screening questions in the negative, record their responses and sign in before they were permitted to enter,” the statement said.
Anglicare locked down all aged care homes on 23 March leaving only staff and volunteers able to enter the facilities.
Anglicare said it used the following NSW Public Health Unit recommended screening questions:
- Are you exhibiting any symptoms of Coronavirus? (sore throat, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, fever)
- Have you returned from overseas in the past 14 days?
- Have you been in close contact with someone who has symptoms of Coronavirus, a confirmed case of Coronavirus, or someone who has travelled overseas in the past 14 days?
“Anyone that responded yes to any one of those questions could not enter the site and had to return home,” Anglicare said.
Anglicare said it continued to take advice from government, the NSW Public Health Unit, and sector partners in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.