Proactive testing starts at Vic facilities while peaks call for mandatory hospital transfers

Mobile COVID-19 testing teams have been deployed to swab people living and working in residential aged care in Victoria’s lockdown zones as the number of positive cases among residents and facilities skyrockets.

Mobile COVID-19 testing teams have been deployed to swab people living and working in residential aged care in Victoria’s lockdown zones as the number of positive cases among residents and facilities skyrockets.

The initiative aims to help health authorities identify instances of community transmission before an outbreak occurs.

There have been at least 57 new cases and two deaths among Victorian aged care residents since 7 July when there were no active cases, Federal Government data shows.

There are 39 aged care facilities with positive cases among residents or staff including three facilities with more 20 cases each, the Victorian Government reported on Thursday (see list below).

Meanwhile, aged care providers peak bodies tell Australian Ageing Agenda that residents who test positive to coronavirus should be transferred to hospital.

Five new teams to carry out proactive testing

Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck announced on Thursday that five new teams had been deployed that day to test staff and residents in aged care homes cross metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.

Richard Colbeck

He said stopping this virus from spreading across Victoria’s aged care facilities was the top priority.

“It remains one of the greatest challenges the sector has faced and we need to be proactive in our fight against it,” Mr Colbeck said.

The new testing teams, which are in addition to the previously deployed in-reach pathology services for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, aim to identify aged care residents and staff with COVID-19 before they appear unwell.

Participating is voluntary and providers will be contacted in advance.

Aspen Medical will provide medical practitioners and registered nurses to collect the specimens at aged care facilities and Sonic Healthcare will do the testing.

While this additional testing capacity will help health authorities in their fight to contain COVID-19, Mr Colbeck urged everyone living and working in aged care to remain vigilant.

As of Thursday, the Victorian Government residential aged care cases currently linked to key outbreaks include:

  • 31 cases linked to Menarock Life Aged Care in Essendon
  • 23 cases linked to Glendale Aged Care in Werribee
  • 21 cases linked to Estia Health aged care in Ardeer
  • 9 cases linked to Embracia Moonee Valley aged care
  • 5 cases linked to St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner
  • 2 cases linked to Japara Central Park Aged Care in Windsor

Peaks call for hospital transfers

Aged care provider peak bodies Aged & Community Services, Leading Age Services and the Aged Care Guild are united in their calls for COVID-19 positive residents to be hospitalised.

Currently, state government health authorities are making a case-by-case assessment about whether a positive resident should go to hospital.

Patricia Sparrow

“We think that anyone who tests positive and particularly those first cases should transfer to hospital automatically rather than on a case by case basis.

“We think that is important and think that will help to reduce the spread within a facility,” ACSA CEO Patricia Sparrow told AAA.

Aged care facilities do infection control well including managing flu and gastro outbreaks, but those infections have treatments and vaccinations, she said.

“I don’t think it is about aged care homes being ineffective, it is about a virus at this stage we don’t know enough about. There is no vaccination, there is no treatment and we need the highest level infection control and support for people and that is best delivered in a hospital.”

Sean Rooney

LASA CEO Sean Rooney called for a commitment for index cases among residents to be transferred to hospitals immediately.

“This gives them the best acute care they require, while also giving the facility the capacity to swing into action with their outbreak plan to enable all the testing, all the contact tracing, all the cleaning and all of the precautionary work that must happen.

“This gives the facility the best chance to contain the infection,” Mr Rooney told AAA.

Aged Care Guild acting CEO Nicholas Brown said aged care residents must be supported by state health departments and public health units to access necessary hospital services in the event of an outbreak.

Nicholas Brown

“Considering the comorbidities and the vulnerability of senior Australians in care, hospital care is the appropriate environment. Aged care homes are homes, not hospitals.

“They are not set up for the level of isolation or acute care needed to manage a COVID‐19 outbreak,” Mr Brown told AAA.

Seniors Australians must have the same right to access hospital care as any other person in the community, he said.

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Tags: covid-19, featured, infection-control, nicholas brown, pat-sparrow, Richard Colbeck, Sean Rooney,

2 thoughts on “Proactive testing starts at Vic facilities while peaks call for mandatory hospital transfers

  1. It’s no brainier, after the experience in NSW aged Care facilities, residents who are positive should be transferred immediately to hospital. Aged care facilities are not suited to care for acute infectious clients.
    If it is not done immediately, State Health Department is negligent and abdicating it’s responsibilities.

  2. Residential Aged Care Facilities are not hospitals but most are designed as hospitals with one exception.
    In a hospital most people are sick and stay in their own room. In a residential aged care facility occupants are not sick and they eat and socialize in groups of 30 or 40 in central areas because that is
    an efficient way to look after them.
    There are better ways of designing facilities which provide better quality of life outcomes, reduce isolation and depression and reduced interactions with everyone who enters the building .
    A number of providers are designing their homes with residents in clusters, apartments or houses of 8 to 10 people. Such designs provide many opportunities for enhanced infection control and if necessary isolation.

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