Employees from three more aged care homes have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including two in regional Victoria, with growing concerns the virus is spreading outside lockdown zones.
Cases currently linked to key outbreaks are as follows:
Sadly, since yesterday there have been three new deaths reported: a man and a woman in their 80s and a woman in her 90s. All died in hospital.
Other homes with known cases include:
An Estia facility in Ardeer is now linked to at least 36 active cases, while more than 20 infections and at least one death are linked to the Glendale Aged Care facility in Werribee.
Early this week the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced all nursing homes across Victoria will be provided with face masks.
Stage 3 “Stay at Home” restrictions are in force across metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.
“These restrictions have become necessary because of the sharp increase in cases,” said Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
“If you live in these areas, there are only four reasons to leave your home: shopping for food and essential items; care and caregiving; daily exercise; and work and study – if you can’t do it from home.
“These are tough measures, but this virus is not selective – it will impact anyone it encounters, and personal contact is the clear source of its transmission. We need everyone to do their part and ensure it is stopped in its tracks.”
A list of testing locations can be found on the getting tested for coronavirus page.
The four residents at Allity’s Glendale Aged Care facility with COVID-19 have been refused transfer to hospital.
A spokesperson for Glendale Aged Care told HelloCare the residents are being cared for by “specially assigned” care staff “who do not interact with other residents”.
The decision to transfer a resident with a positive COVID test result to hospital is determined by the local government health authorities on a case-by-case basis.
“Glendale’s strong preference is to transfer every resident who tests positive for COVID-19 to hospital,” the spokesperson said.
“We feel this is in the best interests of the affected residents and their families, as well as the other residents and staff who live and work in the home.”
Victoria’s health minister, Jenny Mikakos, said “where residents do need clinical care and they have tested positive, they have… been moved to… hospitals. But we cannot have a situation where we have all residents in private aged care facilities taking up hospital beds.
“It has got to be all the parties, all levels of government and the aged care sector stepping up and working to address the risks here.”
The acting CEO of aged care peak body, The Aged Care Guild, Nicholas Brown, told HelloCare he would like to see a nationally consistent approach for transferring residents with COVID-19 to hospital.
He said South Australia is the only state to have a dedicated policy for hospital transfers immediately when a resident tests positive to COVID-19. He said their stance could be used as a starting point for the other states to develop their own policies.
He said it was unclear who is making the decision to transfer a resident to hospital, even when a transfer was the wish of the resident and their family. Decisions are being made on a case-by-case basis at present.
In a press conference this morning, chief health officer, Brett Sutton said some staff have inadvertently brought the virus into aged care facilities.
“What we have seen from the aged care outbreaks is that it is really staff that are becoming unwell and inadvertently bringing the virus into those aged care facilities,” he said.
Mr Sutton said there has been “significant limitation on visitors”, but he doesn’t support a total visitor ban.
“There is an important element to the health of residents in seeing their loved ones and their carers. Some individuals will die when they don’t see their loved ones and carers,” he said.
Ms Mikakos expressed concern about aged care staff working across multiple facilities.
“We know that this is a low-paid workforce that needs to make up shifts across many different nursing homes, and as they move around it does present a risk to the residents in those facilities,” she said.
In recent days an aged care worker employed across a number of facilities was responsible for outbreaks in four homes.
Ms Mikakos said there are ongoing discussions with the Commonwealth on this issue.
“It’s important the aged care sector look to limit the movement of the workforce, but it’s important of course that workers don’t feel that they are financially penalised through that process and effectively losing shifts.”
United Workers Union aged care director, Carolyn Smith, said restrictions on aged care staff working across multiple facilities was unfairly penalising these important workers.
Ms Smith said recent OECD data shows Australia has the second highest level of part-time aged care workers and the second lowest length of tenure in aged care jobs.
“It’s the industry’s reliance on this part-time and casual workforce that forces workers to take jobs across multiple facilities.
“If you stop aged care workers from working two jobs, there simply will not be enough carers to look after residents in aged care facilities – with dire consequences for those in care,” she said.
Ms Mikakos said the $1,500 hardship payment could go some way to compensating aged care workers who lost shifts, but she said conversations on compensation were ongoing.
“It’s important that workers don’t feel that they need to make a choice between putting food on the table or staying home and recovering from coronavirus,” she said.