Newmarch House nursing home poses “an immediate and severe risk” to its elderly residents and must close down if it doesn’t immediately agree to new safety conditions, the national aged care regulator has ruled.
Operator Anglicare has until 5pm on Thursday to formally accept a four-strong list of demands, amid growing angst from families and questions over whether the home did enough to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
It comes after the deaths of 16 elderly residents at the nursing home near Penrith in what the The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission called one of Australia’s most devastating outbreaks.
The commission has threatened to revoke the organisation’s licence if it does not agree to the new conditions. But families of those who’ve died or fallen ill have said it’s too little too late.
They’ve questioned why it took the regulator so long to respond to their concerns.
Comply or close
Anglicare must agree not to admit any new residents and immediately appoint an independent adviser. If the organisation accepts, it has until August 5 to implement the changes.
The commission gave the nursing home provider notice after it found “an immediate and severe risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of care recipients”.
Its coronavirus task force was concerned about Anglicare’s response to the outbreak and “lack of suitable processes and systems in order to control transmission of the virus”.
It was also troubled by complaints from residents and their families about the lack of information provided regarding the outbreak.
“We have taken a series of graduated regulatory actions to ensure compliance in response to escalating concerns and evidence that the provider was failing to meet Quality Standards,” commissioner Janet Anderson said in a statement.
Some 37 of the 100-odd residents at the nursing home near Penrith have tested positive to the virus.
Abattoir cluster spreads to nursing home
In Victoria, the abattoir coronavirus cluster that has 49 cases linked to the facility has spread to a Melbourne nursing home.
A worker at Doutta Galla Aged Care in Footscray is among Victoria’s new coronavirus cases and has been identified as a close contact of one of the Cedar Meats workers who tested positive.
Doutta Galla Aged Services said in a statement the staff member has no symptoms and remains isolated at home.
“The staff member last worked at the home on April 26 and has not worked since that date,” the statement says.
There is not an outbreak nor a COVID-19 cluster, and no resident or staff are showing signs of infection.’’
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos on Wednesday said residents and staff at Doutta Galla are being tested, and claimed the government had managed the meatworks outbreak “perfectly”.
The positive at Doutta Galla has put the facility in lockdown until May 11.
Meanwhile, testing is underway at another nursing home and the site is in lockdown after a worker tested positive.
The staff member from Grant Lodge, at Bacchus Marsh, north-west of Melbourne, was tested on Saturday as part of a Victoria’s ongoing screening program, despite being asymptomatic.
“All Grant Lodge staff members who have interacted with the infected staff member are being tested, and sent home for isolation, and the lodge is in lockdown,” the home’s operator, Djerriwarrh Health Services, confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.
“All residents are being tested and their next of kin are being informed.”
Leaders warned about lifting restrictions
Ahead of Friday’s much-anticipated national cabinet decision on easing lockdown, Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone is warning it not to feel pressured into lifting restrictions.
“Friday’s meeting should continue to apply medical evidence when putting the health of all Australians first,” he said.
He said reinstating isolation measures after a second wave of infections would be worse for health outcomes and the economy than a cautious relaxation.
“People should not get their hopes up too high at this stage, because rushing to get things back to normal, without caution and safeguards, risks a huge setback for everyone,” Dr Bartone said.
PM says overseas strategy a ‘death sentence’
On Wednesday, Scott Morrison indicated Australia would not be following the ‘herd immunity’ strategies used by other countries.
Instead, Australia has pursued a “suppression” strategy to try to defeat the coronavirus.
Describing that plan more than a month ago, Mr Morrison said Australia’s lower-than-forecast numbers were a tribute to support for social distancing and other strict regulations imposed by state and territory governments.
The PM said on Sydney radio that the US, Britain and Sweden, which have all tried similar herd immunity strategies. But, he said, it had resulted in “death and destruction” in those countries.
“That’s a death sentence,” he told 2GB radio host Ray Hadley on Wednesday.
Britain has one of the world’s worst coronavirus tolls, with nearly 30,000 deaths and more than 195,000 confirmed cases.
In the US, more than 70,000 people have died and there are more than 1.23 million infections.
Sweden, which had a population of 10.23 million in 2019, has more than 2800 COVID-19 deaths from 23,000 confirmed infections.
“This could have all happened here. We could have gone down that path,’’ Mr Morrison said.
By Thursday morning, Australia had 6875 infections, according to John Hopkins University data. There have been 97 deaths in Australia.
Just under 6000 Australian virus patients have now recovered.