The Sydney aged care home in the midst of a large coronavirus outbreak has been promised “unlimited workforce support”, including PPE, by the government as it struggles to provide care with 55 staff in isolation.
This comes as the WHO director general warned nations around the world that COVID-19 “will be with us for a long time”.
Anglicare’s Newmarch House currently has 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 – 29 residents and 15 staff – and Anglicare’s chief executive Grant Millard told the ABC he is struggling to find staff.
“We’re really scratching around to have adequate staff there. Today we’re happy we’ve got a good number of RNs, a little short on carers. We have been reaching out to agencies locally,” Millard said.
“We’re in the eye of the storm for the next two or three days … after that, 55 of our care workers in time will be brought back online.”
In a statement on Wednesday night, Millard said the events at Newmarch House have been “a terrible situation for us”.
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that a number of residents have been left unattended, with daily care falling behind. Although the Nepean-Blue Mountains Local Health District’s ‘hospital in the home’ program is in force at the home, this does not include daily living support.
Nine News reported that angry relatives gathered outside the facility and complained that their loved ones have been locked inside for over a week, with some missing meals and others living with soiled sheets.
National deputy chief health officer Paul Kelly said unlimited workforce support had been offered to assist with the difficult situation of having a large number of residents with COVID-19 and a number of staff absent due to close contact with a coronavirus case.
By Thursday morning, Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck insisted staffing levels at the coronavirus-stricken nursing home have almost been restored.
Colbeck said the government had started throwing resources at the home on Monday when the gravity of the outbreak emerged.
“We are very close to being back to the staffing levels that we want,” he told Nine’s Today.
“We will be putting additional resources there over and above normal levels, so that we can bring the situation back to where it should be.”
He defended accusations the federal government had been slow to react to the situation at Newmarch.
But he admitted having a relative in the facility would be hard.
“I would be very distressed if I had a relative in there,” Colbeck said.
A meeting will be also held on Thursday by Anglicare for residents and concerned family members, with representatives from the Department of Health, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, and the Older Persons Advocacy Network to attend.
The outbreak is the largest cluster in NSW after the Ruby Princess and the home has had three deaths due to COVID-19.
WHO director general prepares for the long haul
The head of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that although some countries are experiencing lowering trends in coronavirus cases, they must remain vigilant as the virus can easily “re-ignite”.
“Most of the epidemics in Western Europe appear to be stable or declining. Although numbers are low, we see worrying upward trends in Africa, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe,” he said in a media briefing on Wednesday.
“Most countries are still in the early stages of their epidemics. And some that were affected early in the pandemic are now starting to see a resurgence in cases.”
He said that although stay at home and social distancing methods have suppressed the spread of the virus, evidence suggests that most of the world’s population remains susceptible.
“That means epidemics can easily re-ignite. One of the greatest dangers we face now is complacency.
“Make no mistake: we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time.”
He made this statement as he and his organisation came under fire from US president Donald Trump, who has threatened to cut US funding to the health organisation for being too slow to react to the pandemic. There have also been calls for Ghebreyesus to resign his post.
However, Australian PM Scott Morrison wants to further empower the WHO, giving them the same powers as weapons inspectors.
“If we have that ability that could potentially save thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lives, we need to have that sort of ability,” Morrison told Sky News on Wednesday night.
Weapons inspector powers would allow health officials to enter countries without invitation to investigate the source of disease outbreaks.
China has been accused of lacking transparency at the onset of coronavirus when it first emerged in the city of Wuhan late last year.
A stronger WHO could be given full access to data and other information crucial to tracking and suppressing disease.
“We need to have a transparent and independent process to look at what’s gone on here, and even more importantly, what things have to change,” Morrison said.
Elective surgeries back on
The government this week announced that some elective surgeries will resume, including IVF, dental and eye procedures, children’s surgeries, joint replacements, endoscopy and colonoscopies.
They have also raised the possibility of requiring Australians to download an app to better trace COVID-19 cases, leading to some security and privacy concerns.
Globally, coronavirus cases stand at 2,629,603 with 183,711 dead. Australian numbers have slowed and stand at 6,649 confirmed cases with 74 deaths and more than 4700 people recovered.Do you have an idea for a story?
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