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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.