Apr 23, 2020

Government too late providing ‘surge staffing’ to nursing home during COVID-19 outbreak

The federal government has stepped in to support Sydney’s Newmarch House during a COVID-19 outbreak that yesterday resulted in the death of a third resident.

A total of 42 staff and residents of the Penrith nursing home have now tested positive to the virus after a staff member came to work while infected.

As a result, 55 staff have been unable to work after being infected with COVID-19 or being in contact with someone who is infected.

The resulting staff shortages have prompted the federal government to step in and provide “unlimited workforce support” as part of a ‘surge staffing’ plan.

Residents report “negligence”, “gross understaffing”

Families of a number of Newmarch House residents contacted Sydney’s popular 2GB radio station earlier in the week with reports of “negligence” and “horror stories” at the facility.

Two sons of two Newmarch House residents told 2GB their mothers have been locked in their rooms, unable to shower, fed cold food, and have had their call bells ignored for hours. 

The facility appears to be “unmanned or grossly understaffed” one family member reported, and one resident was not properly monitored or medicated for their diabetes, according to 2GB’s Mr Hadley.

One resident was left bleeding on the ground, said shadow minister for ageing and seniors, Julie Collins.

One of the men said, “I feel my mum is being left to die in her room.” Yesterday four family members protested outside the facility.

“A terrible situation”: Anglicare CEO

Anglicare Sydney CEO Grant Millard told the ABC, “We’re really scratching around to have adequate staff here.”

In a statement on Anglicare’s website, he said, “This has been a terrible situation for us”.

Mr Millard said he will talk to the families via webinar who have raised their concerns at a meeting to be held today with representatives from the government and the OPAN.

Government will fund additional doctors and nurses, supply PPE

Yesterday, Anglicare worked with the Department of Health, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, NSW Ministry of Health and the Older Persons Advocacy Network to address the serious issues. 

The government agreed to fund surge staffing of doctors and nurses and to ensure additional personal protective equipment is supplied.

The minister for aged care Richard Colbeck said, “The government has provided and is fast-tracking access to PPE to ensure the safety of residents and staff.”

“We stand ready to help Newmarch and other aged care facilities nationwide as we navigate this difficult time.

“The protection of Senior Australians has never been more important.”

The federal government has also stepped in to provide training for all aged care workers in the areas of outbreak management procedures, when and how to use PPE, and infection control.

Surge staffing plan “failed”: shadow minister

Ms Collins said the government’s surge workforce strategy has failed and in this case has been deployed “too late”.

“It has been more than a week since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported at Newmarch House. Why has it taken so long for the Morrison Government to act?” she asked in a statement.

The government announced provisions for surge staffing for the aged care sector on 12 April.

Care takes five times longer 

In a statement this afternoon Anglicare said staff shortages have continued today, with one-third of staffing needs still unmet. 

“Because of the needs to dress in full PPE, continue our stringent hygiene regime, and maintain social isolation while providing care, it takes our staff at least five times longer to deliver the care our residents and their families expect,” Mr Milland said.

Image: Nils Hasenau, iStock. Model is used. Does not represent actual people or events.

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  1. Why is this story so familiar? I will tell you why. It is the same neglect for the residents and staff caring for these people as it always has been. Absolutely nothing positive came out of this sham Royal Commission as I have always predicted. As long as “anyone” can do this work it will always be looked at as “unskilled labour!” I can understand why a very small no of Australians who apply to work in aged care soon walk back out the door when they realise they are the token Aussies thrown into a mix of mostly foureign workers who’s names you cannot even pronounce let alone the real issue that they can hardly speak a word of eligible English. They have so many married and other families working at my place now it feels like you are in their country not your own. Oh well when you want to live here you will do anything to get your foot in the door I suppose. Most of these foureign workers do not come from poverty don’t fool yourself. We have virtually no-one in a union because the foureign workers don’t want to rock the boat so nothing changes for the better. I am not racist I am just stating the facts here. Australians are not important in aged care or other jobs that anyone can do. We are the first to be called over the coals when something goes wrong and the first to leave the profession due to bias circumstances as a result. Not the Australia anyone believes is right or fair. With so many out of work. Well don’t go into aged care for the great conditions or wages guys. Youbwill.soon find out. And next time one of you complain of about a worker that is just not up to scratch beware! You will probably be complaining to a relative. As such you cannot weed the slack and lazy ones out. This is Australia!!

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