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Photo: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Sick residents should have gone to hospital: Newmarch

The operator of a coronavirus-hit Sydney nursing home where 16 residents have died admits it would have been easier if those infected at the facility had been transferred to hospital rather than treated on-site.

But NSW Health is standing by the response to the outbreak, given numerous elderly and frail people were involved with serious comorbidities.

Some 37 residents and 32 staff at Newmarch House near Penrith have contracted COVID-19 after a staff member worked for six days with mild respiratory symptoms.

Sixteen people have died due to the virus.

Anglicare chief executive Grant Millard said the organisation complied with NSW Health’s containment strategy after the outbreak and anyone who wanted to be hospitalised after contracting COVID-19 was accommodated.

Other residents have been isolated in their rooms and treated inside the facility.

But Millard said protocols around personal protective equipment and infection control would have been far simpler to follow in a hospital setting.

“If I had my time again, I’d be insisting people who are COVID-positive go to hospital – in hindsight that would have been my preference,” Millard told ABC radio on Monday.

“PPE, infection control practices… these are things much better established, bread-and-butter business, in a hospital setting. Trying to do that in a residential aged care setting is complex.”

Millard said 66 staff members had been withdrawn from the facility due to contact with early COVID-19 cases, meaning those working with residents were recruited from elsewhere.

This made communication with families extremely difficult.

“We were scrambling for staff just to provide patient care and just didn’t do a good enough job communicating to families,” Millard said.

“We really had foreign people in the home and they didn’t know [them].”

But NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant stood by the decision-making of clinicians on-site at Newmarch House, saying the situation was complex.

“For many of the residents, that was their actual place of residence… when you move people from their environment they’re exposed to other risks such as falls risk, disorientation and then as a consequence get other health issues,” Chant told reporters on Monday.

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