The rising case numbers within Victoria’s aged-care homes are of grave national concern with five deaths already noted at St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner.
Neos Kosmos’ exclusive sources say that two women and three men have died after testing positive to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. Though details of the names of the deceased are known to Neos Kosmos, we were not in a position to release these personal details when the paper went to print.
The federal Department of Health has been assisting in the operation and staffing of the facility since Wednesday when St Basil’s regular staff were told to self-isolate. There are currently many specialist doctors and nursing staff monitoring the situation and there may be more residents hospitalised over the coming days.
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Head Janet Anderson told The Australian that care workers had to be temporarily replaced due to the fact that they could have no symptoms yet be contagious. “A single infected staff member with no symptoms and no reason to suspect they have the virus may provide hands on care to a number of residents across a number of shifts,” she said.
“Even where they pay close attention to infection prevention and control requirements, their positive viral status (not yet detected) still poses a heightened risk to others in the facility.”
There are a number of bilingual staff members currently at the facility to cater to the non-English speaking residents, however sources have told Neos Kosmos that authorities who have temporarily taken over the facility are not doing enough to inform the administration of the current situation as it unfolds.
Health Workers Union Secretary Diana Asmar told The Age it had contacted its members from St Basil’s and received “strong feedback” that personal protective equipment (PPE) practices were lax at the facility. The notes from the calls to the union were shown to the newspaper where workers said that the use of masks and gloves had remained optional and an obviously sick patient was not isolated despite coughing and sneezing.
“Management gave us full protective equipment this week,” one St Basil’s worker said. “Even as of Sunday, after they knew COVID was an issue, masks and gloves weren’t taken seriously. It was up to workers whether they wanted to wear it or not. It wasn’t enforced.”
Some relatives of residents told the press they had concerns that not enough was being done to protect the age from COVID-19, something which St Basil’s administration denies.
Alison McMillan said, “I went out to the aged care facility, St Basil’s yesterday (Wednesday) morning, it is part of our role in the Commonwealth to support facilities that might need our help. I sought and saw the amazing work that those staff have been doing under very difficult circumstances. That they see those residents as their family and the family they work with.” She pointed to the staff’s dedication. “They have worked tirelessly to hand over to a new team of staff so that they could go home and commence their isolation as they are required to do so,” she said.
Kostantin Kontis, President of St Basil’s Melbourne, said that the personnel had been working hard to ensure the safety of the residents in the facility before Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton called on the staff members to be temporarily removed.
“Based on an assessment by officers of the department, informed by the large numbers of cases and evidence of extensive transmission, the department advised on 19 July that all staff who were present in clinical areas from 1 to 15 July (inclusive) for greater than two hours would be designated as close contacts. Staff should commence their quarantine from their last date in the facility, during that date range. Staff members may return to work at the facility when they have returned a negative COVID-19 test and when they have completed 14 days of quarantine from their last day of work during the 1 to 15 July period,” Mr Sutton had said in the letter dated 21 July, 2020.