May 04, 2020

Newmarch aged care staff didn’t know how to use PPE

Residents of Sydney aged care facility, Newmarch House, have been given the option to move to alternative accommodation, after the chief executive officer admitted to “failings” in infection control at the home, including the fact some staff did not know how to wear personal protective equipment properly.

On Sunday, Anglicare CEO, Grant Gillard, admitted there had been mistakes made at the facility. He told Seven News, “It would seem fairly obvious that there have been failings.”

“The use of PPE is foreign to a lot of people,” he said.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant Dr Chant said on Saturday that breaches of infection control among staff is “a concern”. 

Residents have the option to relocate

Dr Chant said families of residents who have not contracted COVID-19 could apply to move their loved one out of the home, but she cautioned they would first have to go into quarantine for 14 days, either in hospital or in a family home.

But not all families are taking up the option to move their loved one, according to reports in The Australian

Residents who choose to stay and who have tested negative to the disease are being moved into a separate area of the facility. All rooms and corridors will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised.

Chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said on the weekend that residents who would benefit from hospital treatment have been taken to hospital, but most residents have stayed. 

“That’s where they want to be,” he said.

Fourteen deaths at Newmarch House

On Sunday, Newmarch House announced that a fourteenth resident had died, and four more cases of COVID-19 were reported, including two staff members.

A total of 63 people have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 at the western Sydney aged care facility, 26 staff members and 37 residents. 

“This is a very sad time for the family and a distressing and challenging time for residents and staff as we deal with the impact of this dreadful virus,” Anglicare said in a statement

Daily staff testing begins today

Daily testing of staff has begun today, three weeks after the outbreak was first identified, and two infection-control nurses have also begun working at the facility.

The outbreak at Newmarch House is a harsh reminder that Australia is not out of the woods yet in its fight against COVID-19. Though infection numbers are dropping around the country, the outbreak demonstrates the highly infectious nature of the disease, and how dangerous it is in aged care facilities. It also highlights the importance of infection control, experienced staff, and adequate training; any chink in these defences in an aged care facility is likely to have a deadly outcome during COVID-19.

Image: FG Trade, iStock. Model is posed, subjects to do reflect actual people or events.

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  1. It is the responcibility of facility managers to ensure the staff know and understand the use of personal protective equipent and infection control. This issue has been highlighted by the pandemic but I this is also an issue with gastro and flu outbreaks in facilities in more normal times.

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