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COVID outbreak and alleged neglect claims at south Qld aged care home

Estia Health Hervey Bay in Urraween Queensland is facing a Covid outbreak involving around 40 patients with alleged claims of patient neglect, failure to inform families, and failure to follow Covid protocols, all of which the facility has refuted.

The allegations were made to The Courier Mail by a resident's daughter, who has called out the "unhygienic" and "upsetting" conditions her father has been living in.

She has also claimed that since January 8, when residents were informed of the outbreak, conditions had become so bad that several "nurses and care workers ... walked out or resigned".

This has allegedly left the facility short-staffed, resulting in an alleged lack of care, including residents not being administered vital medications, buzzers being ignored, and residents being left unbathed and unattended.

"There has been no communication from management whatsoever regarding the situation," she alleged.

A single Covid case allegedly bought in by a visiting family member, exploded to 39 cases by January 14 due to what the daughter describes as "ineffective" PPE policy.

There was an alleged lack of adherence to hygiene protocol, which included swabs, thermometer covers, and cotton buds being left in residents' rooms.

"Residents who do not know how to are being made to perform their RAT tests," she claims.

Qld Nurse and Midwives Union assistant secretary Sarah Beaman urged allegations to be directed to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

"QNMU continues to campaign for improved conditions in all federally regulated private aged care facilities nation-wide including safe staff levels, skill mix and care minutes," she told Aged Care Insite.

"The QNMU is also concerned some facilities continue to face challenges in effectively handling COVID-19 outbreaks and we continue to campaign for safe practice and patient safety as a cornerstone of our work." 

However, a spokesperson from Estia Health rebutted the allegations and said they were doing everything to ensure the safety and well-being of their residents.

"This includes supporting local management with senior clinical and management resources from Brisbane, including our national infection prevention and control consultant.

"We are also hiring agency staff to backfill nursing, personal care, maintenance and food services staff, since an increase in the number of cases over the weekend.

"We continue to follow stringent infection and prevention control measures to safely care for residents and our employees, and we are in close contact with the local public health unit."

The spokesperson also acknowledged the lack of communication during the outbreak but said it was "in part due to an issue with our communications app".

A complaint had been made to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The alleged neglect comes after the recent Covid wave.

There are currently 79 active aged care outbreaks in Queensland homes, with 386 resident cases and 236 staff cases.

On top of that, vaccinations are not up to date, with only 26.7 per cent of residents having had a booster in the last six months.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard has expressed his concern about the rate.

"I am very concerned about the current Covid-19 booster vaccination rate among aged care residents.

"Older Queenslanders have an increased risk of severe illness and complications from Covid-19.

"I continue to strongly encourage all Queenslanders over 65 to get a Covid-19 booster at their earliest convenience."

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