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Nursing homes failed over deadly flu

Only one-third of staff at two regional aged care homes in Victoria and Tasmania had received flu shots before a deadly flu outbreak killed 16 residents.

A horror flu season this year claimed the lives of 121 aged care residents in Victoria, while Tasmania reported 21 deaths across its nursing homes.

A federal government review released on Monday identified poor management at St John’s Retirement Village in Wangaratta and Uniting AgeWell Strathdevon in Tasmania during the influenza outbreak in August and September.

Ten residents from St John’s died from the flu, which also claimed the lives of six residents at the Strathdevon facility.

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said the homes were overwhelmed by the outbreak, but that was “unacceptable”.

The audit by Australian Aged Care Quality Agency found only one-third of staff at the two facilities were vaccinated before the outbreak.

At Uniting AgeWell Strathdevon, 27 of 76 staff were vaccinated. During the outbreak, 29 staff and 31 residents contracted the flu.

The review also found management at Strathdevon did not consistently follow infection control guidelines, and junior staff did not know what to do in the absence of senior staff who contracted the illness.

Staff at the Strathdevon facility had insufficient personal protective equipment for infection control.

At St John’s Retirement Village, management failed to identify and contain the influenza outbreak, the audit found.

Several residents who contracted influenza did not receive appropriate clinical care, and three patients who died from the flu were not referred to a medical officer when they first became sick.

Both St John’s and Uniting AgeWell were also criticised by family members for not telling them about the outbreak.

One person said they believed Uniting AgeWell’s poor handling of the outbreak resulted in their loved one dying.

Another said they only found out about the outbreak when their relative was taken to hospital.

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One comment

  1. Hand Hygiene and PPE should be worn appropriately while handling infectious patients.
    Staff who are unwell are fearful of being reprimanded if they called in sick by upper management.
    When a carer/ nurse is sick with flu they need to stay @ home for a few days.

    Management should send a person home if they think the person is unwell to care for a patient.

    The government must look @ the number of sick days awarded to the health care person. Sick leave 10 day per year is too little. Nurses still need to go to the doctor for certificate and pay.
    The situation in Australia is getting complicated with the change in climate and over crowding in certain areas where spread is possible.

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