Five Melbourne aged care homes go into lockdown after residents test positive – or wait results – for COVID-19 in just 24 hours – providers must stay on guard

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Just a day after Villa Maria Aged Care’s Bundoora home went into lockdown over an inconclusive case of COVID-19, four other homes have followed suit.

Lynden Aged Care, a community-owned Not For Profit with 102 residents, in Camberwell, 9km east of the Melbourne CBD, has also closed its doors to visitors after a resident tested positive.

Contact tracing of all residents and staff was underway yesterday with close contacts ordered into quarantine.

“The resident was diagnosed at a metropolitan hospital, where they are being treated,” The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said.

“Residents and families are all being informed and we’re working closely with the facility to ensure appropriate public health actions have been taken, including isolation, quarantine, cleaning and contact tracing.”

HammondCare has also confirmed that a resident at its Caulfield Village has returned a preliminary negative test yesterday after an initial positive test on Monday morning.

While further testing is underway, both health authorities and HammondCare say they are treating the result as if it is positive.

The provider says the Caulfield village has been temporarily closed to visitors with the other 11 residents in the cottage isolated and staff following strict infection control procedures, including wearing appropriate PPE.

Testing and contact tracing for all residents, staff and visitors is now underway, while a liaison team has also been set up to call families daily with updates with more complex clinical briefings as requested and offer weekly webinars for families if required.

Two MiCare aged care homes – Overbeek Lodge and Margriet Manor, both on Mt Dandenong Road in Kilsyth, 36km east of the Melbourne CBD, also went into lockdown yesterday, awaiting test results on two residents who showed symptoms of coronavirus.

MiCare executive director Petra Neeleman tells us they do not believe the cases are related and have tested around a dozen residents in the past two months for COVID-19 with visitors temporarily restricted and all results being negative.

MiCare’s website notes that it had recently been allowing visits of one person for up to one hour in the resident’s room three times per week on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday between 11:30am and 1:30pm.

We reached out to Lynden to check on their visitor guidelines but had not had a response by the time of publication.

HammondCare’s Senior Nurse and Executive responsible for Quality, Risk and Safety, Angela Raguz, says: “Visits by family during this time are not believed to be linked to the possible infection that has occurred.”

HammondCare tells us that they did not close their homes to visitors during the pandemic, unless they were concerned about a resident or residents and were doing precautionary testing.

One visitor has been allowed for one hour a day in residents’ rooms or outdoors (not in common areas or during busy times of the day such as meals.

All visitors are also being screened by a concierge, including temperature checks, questioning around risk, and flu vaccination checks, before being allowed to enter with more flexibility for residents receiving end-of-life care.

“This situation is almost certainly not visitor related,” they stressed.

We are not suggesting that any of these cases came from visitors.

However, it is a reminder that operators must stay on their guard – particularly as restrictions in the community ease and the new industry Code requires providers to allow regular visits from family members, in some cases for up to two hours a day.

There has been a minor uptick in the number of confirmed cases in recent days.

The Lynden, HammondCare and Villa Maria cases were among six new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Victoria in the past 24 hours.

The real test will come in a week or two however, when we will start to see the results of states lifting restrictions.

More cases of community transmission will heighten the risk for operators – regardless of who is the conduit.