May 08, 2020

It’s Taken 16 Deaths At Newmarch For An Independent Advisor To Step In…

With a total of 16 residents now dead and 69 staff members and residents testing positive for COVID-19, infection control failures at Newmarch House have paved the way for one of the biggest tragedies in the history of the Australian aged care sector.

HelloCare can confirm that Newmarch residents and their families received a statement from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) on Thursday.

The statement – that was signed by Commissioner Janet Anderson – outlined actions it had taken against Anglicare, one of which was the appointment of an independent advisor that was nominated by the Commission.

By late yesterday afternoon, Anglicare had agreed to the Commission’s nomination of Andrew Kinkade who has now been appointed as the external advisor of the Newmarch House facility for the next three months.

Given the unprecedented nature of the situation at Newmarch House, one would be forgiven for assuming that the new advisor would have an extensive background in clinical health or infectious disease to complement their management skills, but this is not the case.

In fact, newly appointed Andrew Kinkade is an ex-Macquarie Bank manager and qualified chartered accountant with less than three years of experience overseeing residential aged care.

Mr. Kinkade currently holds the position of General Manager of Residential Care for Catholic Healthcare in Sydney and previously held the position of COO for the National Home Doctor Service (NHDS) in NSW.

While these may not be the credentials that many Newmarch residents and their families would have been hoping to see, that does not necessarily mean Mr. Kinkade is the wrong person for the job – and we certainly wish him all the best.

Over the last year, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has garnered a reputation for being a toothless tiger for its inability to intervene on providers who repeatedly fail to meet the minimal standards of care.

The actions taken against Anglicare did nothing to dispel that stereotype.

In addition to appointing the external advisor of the Commission’s choice, Anglicare was also told that it would have to action the advisor’s recommendations and provide regular reports back to the Commission.

Anglicare has also agreed not to admit any new residents into Newmarch House until all risks have been adequately addressed, which given current circumstances, seems like the kind of thing that should really go without saying.

The supposed penalty for failing to comply with these meager demands was the threat of Anglicare having their licence to operate revoked by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

This move was even backed by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian who said that she was “relieved” that the Commission had stepped in.

“The federal regulator has now put them on notice to say if you don’t do X, Y, and Z, we might revoke your licence. I think that’s a positive step,” she said.

The continual stream of bad news and bizarre subplots that have stemmed from the Newmarch story clearly indicates that this facility was nowhere near ready to deal with a pandemic.

But at this point, it’s hard not to feel that threats of licence revocation have been poorly timed because now is simply not the time to be beating Anglicare Sydney over the head with a stick.

While failings are clear and need to be dealt with, surely right now the focus should be wrapping around the staff at Newmarch so that no more residents succumb to this deadly virus.

Only two days ago the public was alerted that three more staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, while earlier this week a 71-year-old man with no immediate family became the 16th person to die at the facility since the outbreak.

Anglicare’s appointment of Andrew Kinkade as an external advisor is actually the third intervention by the regulator.

According to the Minister for Aged Care, Richard Colbeck, the first regulatory action was an additional capacity that was provided in the form of a team with experience in managing COVID-19.

While the second regulatory action was additional assistance and resource support for the development of a framework to ensure the quality of communication of resident’s circumstances to families was completed.

This raises questions as to just how effective the Commission’s first two interactions with Newmarch House actually were and whether the threat of a revoked licence was actually a thinly-veiled attempt to posture and divert attention from previous failings.

The Commission’s dealings with providers who repeatedly fail to meet quality have provided ample evidence that they are either incapable or unwilling to implement actions and penalties that are improving the quality of care In Australia.

And everyone in the aged care industry is well aware that Australia’s aged care watchdog is definitely more bark than bite.

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  1. Interesting a company that is in clinical strive would bring in an Accountant/Solicitor. However since they have the government contractor and recommended body Aspen Medical in they only really need a figure head per se. One that can mange finances, as they have a lot of RAD’s to pay out and someone to do the PR piece with family in a way that will provide legality buffering. As we have heard of a case of a mother who died of dehydration already and was wrongly diagnosed with corona. I am sure their will be 16 family’s and more by the time that it is offer seeking compensation. Plus a lot that will abandon Anglicare and seek reimbursement of other costs. Although he came in at the tail of it I wish him well.

  2. I hope you are wrong. The failure of this situation Is the understanding that 50% of Europe’s deaths are in Nursing homes, 40% of the UK’s. The randomness nature of an asymptomatic virus is that this could have happened anywhere! The real tragedy is too many are quick to blame, no one has addressed the real problem of the lack of skilled staff available to back fill those in isolation. Anglicare is a sound organisation, trying to manage a horrific situation. Maybe a moment of real support from the industry is in order.

  3. I fnd it highly improbable that Newmarch would not have been under extremely close observation by NSW Health right from the first notification of Covid19. I imagine that all of their actions in managing this outbreak would have been following the Dept instructions . The Commission seems totally absent , their new standards have little if any bearing on clinical care , the “consumer” is revealed as a hollow model of consumerist economic ideology.

  4. The Newmarch House fiasco, if I may call it that, has led many in the non aged care community to jump on the morally indignant and outraged bandwagon, with calls for something to be done, and ‘how could such neglect happen’ and so on and so forth. In the residential aged care sector the sentiment is somewhat different. Here the conversations tend to fall under the ‘Im so glad that wasn’t us’ heading. Why the disconnect?

    The answer to this is that people who actually work in residential aged care actually know the area. In brief, how can we describe residential aged care?

    1. Overwhelmingly frail aged people with multiple medical co-morbidities
    2. A high rate of people with dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment
    3. A high rate of people with delirium
    4. As a result of 2 and 3, a very high rate of behaviour issues such as; wandering, pacing, agitation, intrusiveness, exit seeking behaviour, refusal of care/resistance to care, verbal and physical aggression, the later including kicking, punching, slapping, hitting, throwing things and so on.

    Now the point is that best practice infection control in such situations is largely illusory. Enabling social distance in aged care, and in dementia units in particular, is impossible. Many residents require two to three staff for ADLs. People with dementia wander. Into others rooms, into nurses stations, into public areas. They hit, kick, slap others. They are doubly incontinent. Often on the floors of common areas. There are not enough staff. There are never going to be enough staff.

    Once Covid gets into a facility – that’s most likely it. It will spread like wildfire. In our facility we are lucky – and that’s it. We are lucky. That is all that separates us from them. Luck.

    Cos we know, as Newmarch House have found out, that once you are in that God-awful space, the rest of the world will line up to blame you for all the things that you had no control over.

  5. I sincerely hope that Newmarch House, under its new supervisor, produces great outcomes for the remaining residents, care staff, medical staff, families and carers.

    I accept the clinical and human complexity of a Residential Aged Care Facility with COVID-19 cases.

    What I cannot accept is that the regulators seem completely unable to act in an effective and transparent way.

    Many of the families and carers associated with Newmarch House must be in a state of disbelief about how the lack of communication, the deaths and confusion has dragged on. I am not blaming individual medical and care staff. Clearly senior management and the Board of Anglicare have much to answer for.

    Has the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission learnt anything from this disaster ?

    If another Residential Aged Care Facility has multiple deaths from COVID-19 do they know what they will do ? Do they know which of their staff will do it ?

    Has anyone told the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission that this is not business as usual ?

    Any hope that the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission can be redeemed by the current senior management of that organisation died with those unfortunate residents.

    Once again it has done too little, too late.

  6. How convenient that the commissioner would appoint someone with a legal & financial background to help protect Anglicare from legal & financial fallout rather than someone with a healthcare background who can help protect the residents from death & staff from job loss.

  7. I find it very difficult to see how taking ‘actions AGAINST Anglicare’ at this time is in any way supporting residents, their families, staff and an organisation that is facing an unprecedented crisis. It looks to me like it is amplifying issues that were already there not just in Anglicare but the industry as a whole.

    They need support not finger-pointing by yet another organisation and the media who just aren’t there day to day to manage underpaid vulnerable staff and distressed vulnerable residents and their families. Put away the big stick and partner with them to find solutions now and for the future.

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