Chief health officer calls for compassion for aged care staff

More staff at a Sydney aged care facility have tested positive to coronavirus, prompting the state’s health chief to say maintaining full personal protective equipment can be a challenge in residential aged care.

More staff at a Sydney aged care facility have tested positive to coronavirus, prompting the state’s health chief to say maintaining full personal protective equipment can be a challenge in residential aged care.

New South Wales chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant told a press conference on Tuesday that three additional staff members returned a positive result to coronavirus as part of new daily testing of all staff at the start of their shifts.

There are now 66 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 from the facility including 37 residents and 29 staff, which is 7 more than a week ago (read more here).

There have been 16 deaths among these residents with the most recent an 88-year-old female on Tuesday morning following a 72-year-old male resident, who died on Monday, and a 76-year-old female resident, who died on Saturday.

In response to questions about apparent inadequate infection control at the facility, Dr Chant said it was important not to blame anyone over the staff infections and look at each case individually.

Dr Kerry Chant

“But some of the stories that have been advised to me is when you are managing or caring for someone who might be confused, you have masks on and someone reaches out to you and removes your mask.

“I would like to call out to aged care workers and the nurses who are working in these facilities and providing care and accept that it is quite challenging to maintain full PPE and interact with the patients,” Dr Chant told the press conference.

She said they were aiming for care and compassion and were committed to finding out if there was anything further they could do to understand how the healthcare and aged care workers acquired the infection.

“But I think we also need to understand it is not a controlled environment in which we are providing care.

“People are confused, people do have accidents and human nature is of course you’re going to go and pick up a resident who has fallen on the floor even if your mask dislodges when you make that sudden movement.

“We need to show care and compassion for the staff who are working in these facilities and we need to obviously need to learn any lessons about the challenges,” Dr Chant said.

Anglicare implements family support program

Anglicare Sydney said on Tuesday that the most recent staff member to test positive was asymptomatic.

“The positive test result was discovered during our now daily, rigorous testing regime which is now being applied to all staff working at Newmarch House.

“Anglicare continues to be advised and guided by infection control specialists, generously provided by government and we are incredibly appreciative of their expertise and ongoing support,” Anglicare said in a statement on Tuesday.

Care workers who tested positive on Friday were experienced with infectious disease situations, which indicates just how contagious this is and how difficult to contain, Anglicare said on Sunday.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, the ABC reported, Anglicare Sydney asked healthcare contractor Aspen Medical to stand down one of its staff at Newmarch House over alleged breaches of infection control related to PPE.

Following ongoing complaints from relatives of residents about inadequate communication, Anglicare implemented a comprehensive family support program on the weekend to help families dealing with the stress and anxiety of the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Dr Chant said investigations were underway into how the first COVID-19 positive staff member from the facility, who tested positive on 11 April after working six shifts while having very mild symptoms, acquired the virus.

“We believe at the current moment that the likely source is that the aged care worker acquired it in the community but we are tracking down one other source that may have meant there may have been someone else in the facility,” she said on Tuesday.

Residents continue to have the choice of being cared for in the facility through hospital in the home, or being treated in Nepean Hospital, depending on their Advanced Care Directive and their own personal wishes, NSW Health said.

Julie Collins

Opposition asks RC to investigate

Meanwhile Labor called on the aged care royal commission on Monday to investigate what has gone wrong at Newmarch House after a “second wave” of coronavirus infections at the facility.

“While the Royal Commission is rightly looking at aged care and COVID-19 more generally, a deeper investigation into what happened at this facility is warranted,” said Shadow Minister for Ageing Julie Collins.

The royal commission has sought submissions from the public about the impact of COVID-19 on aged care services in response to concerns it has (read more here).

“The Commissioners will make a decision on the extent to which it will investigate the impact of COVID-19 once they are confident that such an investigation can be conducted without affecting the capacity of service providers and Government to focus fully on their response to the pandemic,” a spokesperson for the aged care royal commission told Australian Ageing Agenda.

There are at least 63 aged care residents nationally who have tested positive to COVID-19, of whom 16 have recovered and 25 have died, according to Federal Government data.

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Tags: anglicare-sydney, covid-19, dr-kerry-chant, infection-control, newmarch house,

2 thoughts on “Chief health officer calls for compassion for aged care staff

  1. The Covid-19 guidelines for outbreaks in residential care facilities are very light on. This is why the infection will continue to spread into our homes, along with not enough skilled staff and PPE resources. We don’t have staff in our hospitals contracting Covid like they are in residential homes. This is because they have one patient, the top level of infection control equipment, measures and are trained for this specific role. The new guidelines look similar to gastro or influenza outbreak management guidelines but should look more like Ebola Management guidelines. After all Covid kills.

  2. I agree with above comment. Our facility has provided one online training model on care during an influenza outbreak with some COVIDSafe-19 add ons – to be completed in your own time. No hands on training on correct use of PPE equipment. One staff meeting 5 weeks ago and many emails. I have been very distressed about the lack of training and support. I found by chance the Covid-19 Infection control training by the Australian Government. This model enabled me to feel more confident in my role as an aged care worker during the pandemic. The effect of not providing paid training for age care workers is highlighted by the pandemic and also the preliminary findings of the Royal Commission.

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