This story was updated on 1 May

The state health authority is investigating the cause of a new case of coronavirus among a staff member at a western Sydney facility dealing with an outbreak.

The quality regulator has also stepped in to help improve communication between the provider and the families of residents.

There have been 13 deaths as at Friday morning among residents who tested positive for the virus at Anglicare Sydney’s Newmarch House in Caddens including seven this week.

  • See below for more details on Friday’s update

The most recent deaths include four females aged 81, 89, 90 and 91 respectively and three males aged 74, 77 and 93 respectively.

They are among 59 confirmed COVID-19 cases at the facility including 37 residents and 22 staff, among 60 staff in self-isolation.

This includes two new cases among staff, one of which is under investigation, New South Wales chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant first reported on Wednesday.

“One [staff member] was in isolation and had been in isolation so it had clearly been identified. The other staff member was in the facility but had been wearing personal protective wear,” Dr Chant said.

On Thursday, Dr Chant said the investigation was still looking into when and how the staff member acquired the infection.

“The concern there is how that healthcare worker acquired it and whether there was any lapse in infection control that would have accounted for that.

“These are the usual ways we investigate outbreaks or cases particularly in aged care workers or healthcare workers,” Dr Chant told a press conference on Thursday.

Dr Chant said she was waiting on advice about whether there were any subsequent transmissions among residents.

There has been extensive repeat testing and monitoring at the facility, she said.

Dr Kerry Chant (left) and Gladys Berejiklian at Thursday’s press conference

Premier welcomes federal intervention

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian welcomed the news that the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission had intervened to improve communications between Anglicare and the family members of residents.

“We desperately want to see better communications,” she said at Thursday’s press conference.

Many family members have complained about inadequate updates from Anglicare and too few opportunities to communicate with their loved ones.

Ms Berejiklian said a number of aged care facilities have undergone concerning situations but some were dealing with the issue better than others.

She said there needed to be a strong response at both national and state levels to make sure everybody steps up.

“Anyone who runs an aged care facility at this time has to step up. Mitigate the risk but have a very compassionate and respectful response to families and the residents of course.

“This is a horrible situation. I could not imagine what it would be like to have a loved one and not have information about them, not to be able to have some contact with them.

Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a press conference on Wednesday that the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission held a meeting with families last night towards improving the communication.

“The government has also asked the Older Persons Advocacy Network to put a worker on-site to assist families with up to the minute information on their loved ones,” Mr Morrison said.

“Communication is key but I suspect and know that one of the frustrations for families is being able to have access to the facility, and there is limited access to that facility at Newmarch.”

Anglicare launches window program

Some family members will be able to see their loved one through a window visit, Anglicare Sydney CEO Grant Millard announced on Thursday.

“For residents who have activated an end of life care plan visitation will of course be organised; however, for others we simply cannot afford the risk of further spreading COVID-19,” Mr Millard said in a statement.

Grant Millard

“We are now able to arrange for some family members to talk to their loved ones through a window-visit.”

He said criticism that Anglicare Sydney was not communicating with families was true to an extent.

He said there was extreme pressure due to the increased time needed to provide care and help residents with phone calls while using PPE to maintain social isolation.

“We are having to prioritise our communications amongst our other obligations. Our first priority has been the support and comfort we give our residents.

‘Now, as well as that, we are able to communicate more with families, for instance, by scheduling window-visits.”

He thanked the staff for doing an exceptional job despite the pressure they were under.

Friday update

A male, 74, from Newmarch House died on Thursday afternoon, becoming the 13th resident with COVID-19 at the facility to die, Dr Kerry Chant told a press conference on Friday morning.

Three new residents also tested positive in the previous 24 hours, she said.

“Testing and monitoring in that facility continues,” Dr Chant said.

In relation to the new cases among residents, Dr Chant said they will have another infection control review to see if there are any learnings or areas to strengthen.

The investigation into how one of hte staff member’s acquired the virus is still going, she said.

Elsewhere, Dr Chant said there were no additional cases at Catholic Healthcare’s Bodington Aged Care facility at Wentworth Falls, where a staff member tested positive for coronavirus seven days after working her last shift on 19 April.

“All the tests collected from staff and residents on the 25 and 27 April have all returned negative results, and a third and final round of testing will commence today,” she said.

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