Aged care COVID outbreak traced to staff member


RESIDENTS and staff at the Village Glen Aged Care Residences, Mornington are this week expecting to be tested for COVID-19.

If the Department of Health and Human Services does arrive, it will be for the “fourth or fifth time” since five deaths and 37 positive cases were recorded at the home in August.

Chief operating officer Peter Nilsson said on Saturday (12 September) that while five residents had died “with COVID-19”, the home had been virus-free for 23 days.

He said DHHS had been told that it was wrong to keep saying there were still active cases.

He expected DHHS staff to test all staff and residents “for the fourth or fifth time” and, provided the tests prove negative, that by Wednesday the home would be declared virus free.

“DHHS is wrong [to say there are active cases] and I have no idea where they got their information from,” he said. “It’s very frustrating.”

Mr Nilsson said the virus was introduced to the home in Nepean Highway in early August by an asymptomatic staff member who began a shift without realising she was positive.

“She only found out when her housemate tested positive and then she was checked and found to be positive. She immediately informed us and went home to self-isolate,” he said.

“This is the industry’s greatest fear: not knowing if staff or residents are positive because there may be no outward signs. The only way of knowing is if people you are in contact with test positive. Most active cases emanate from asymptomatic cases.”

Mr Nilsson said staff had been tested daily “ever since the virus has been with us” with an emphasis on temperature checks, asking if they have a runny nose or sore throat, and if they know anyone with it.

“If someone tests positive we are obligated to notify the DHHS which we did [on 5 August]. We isolated that person and then found more that tested positive.

“The virus is so contagious that once staff self-isolate we trace all who they have been in contact with.

“Of the 37 cases here, 16 staff and 21 residents tested positive. The five that died had COVID-19 but they may not have died from it.”

Mr Nilsson said the average life expectancy in an aged care home was two years. “The residents are in the twilight of their lives and have multiple health issues,” he said.

Village Glen, which has 92 beds and 77 residents, has had to replace 40 per cent of its staff to cover those self-isolating. Under its COVID-19 action plan all remaining staff must wear personal protective equipment and residents must stay in their rooms and among their cohorts to limit cross contamination.

A staff member is required to report daily at 2pm to DHHS.

“On Friday we called DHHS and complained that the figures were wrong and that we didn’t have any active cases,” Mr Nilsson said. “They’ll take it on board but who knows their thought patterns.

Mr Nilsson said that after being given the all clear “we will then instigate a whole range of measures, such as deep cleaning every room and every staff and resident area”.

The virus has not appeared at Village Glen’s Rosebud aged care home where the situation is said to be “normal”.

First published in the Mornington News – 15 September 2020


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