NSW Health has confirmed five staff members and four residents at the Not For Profit’s Newmarch House aged care home in Kingswood in western Sydney have now tested positive for COVID-19 following the news that a staff member had worked a number of shifts while infectious.
As we reported yesterday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard had blasted the staff member for working while showing “symptoms of illness”.
But CEO Grant Millard (pictured) says the staff member showed no signs of illness.
“Nothing was disclosed to us. She did not display any symptoms,” he said.
Mr Millard also labelled the Federal Government’s funding of the aged care sector as “woefully inadequate”
“We still provide quality of care and we’re proud of what we do,” he said.
“In order to reduce the risk of casual staff members turning up, even though they are unwell, thinking, ‘I have to get food on the table,’ we put in place several weeks ago a policy where any staff member who is feeling unwell, even rostered casuals, we will still pay them, so they don’t run the risk and turn up to work.”
Anglicare says all residents at the home as well as staff and volunteers who worked at Newmarch House from the time that Anglicare initiated its lockdown on 23 March will now be tested for COVID-19. 40 of the home’s staff are now on paid leave, and are required to self-isolate and be tested.
NSW Health is still conducting contact tracing to determine how the staff member came to be infected, but Anglicare is not waiting for these findings – referring the matter to the Aged Care Quality & Safety Commission.
“The Police may well investigate whether the staff member has breached the NSW Public Health Order,” their statement adds.
However, the authorities have indicated that it is unlikely the staff member knew she had COVID-19 and doubt she will be charged with reckless behaviour because there was no “malicious intent”.
“I have spoken to the director of the public health unit and this person is absolutely mortified,” NSW’s Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.
“So, I think I would urge people to remember that the symptoms of COVID can be incredibly mild and the key point is do not go to work.”
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller added: “If we thought there was reckless behaviour, we would report it to other agencies for oversight, but we will go and ask tough questions today.”
The case indicates the challenge for providers: even if staff self-isolate at the first signs of illness, it is estimated around 50% of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic so how would staff know that they are ill?