Daily Virus Testing for Staff at Sydney Aged Care Home in Response to Outbreak

May 3, 2020 Updated: May 3, 2020

Every staff member at a western Sydney aged care home at the center of a COVID-19 outbreak will soon to be tested daily for coronavirus.

New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Sunday announced the new measure will be implemented in an attempt to manage the outbreak at the Anglicare-run Newmarch House nursing home.

“It seems to me, in talking with an infectious disease specialist, that’s a really good step we can take,” he told reporters in Sydney on May 3.

“Hopefully that will make a difference.”

The nursing home, near Penrith, on May 3 confirmed the death of a 14th resident and reported two more staff members had tested positive to coronavirus.

One of the new cases is a close contact of another case and had been in isolation for a period of time. The source of the second case is under investigation.

There are now 63 infections linked to the nursing home including 26 staff members and 37 residents since the outbreak on April 11.

Hazzard said he is “quite satisfied” Anglicare is doing everything it can but acknowledged it was “terrible” new COVID-19 cases are being confirmed at the facility.

Investigations are underway to find out how the staff members recently became infected, with questions around whether the transmission is happening within the facility or outside.

Staff from other agencies have also had to be brought in to work at Newmarch House after a large number of Anglicare staff had to isolate when the outbreak first emerged.

“It has been extremely challenging for Anglicare. They largely stepped up and worked with state government and the federal government to try to ensure they get staff from other sources,” Hazzard said.

“They’ve had to have, I think, nine separate agencies providing health staff and staff generally into the facility and that presents its own challenges.”

Hazzard said about 25 percent of the nursing home staff members have now been able to return to work since the outbreak started.

The facility is also in talks with residents who do not have coronavirus and their families about alternative accommodation options.

“Of course this is possible, provided there is a good understanding of the risks and precautionary measures that this would involve – for the resident and their families,” Anglicare said in a statement on Sunday.

NSW Health chief health officer Dr. Kerry Chant said Anglicare has kept one part of the facility as a “clean wing” where residents who do not have the virus are living.

She also insisted that residents who are COVID-19 free have the option to leave the facility but it had to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

“If they wanted to go home to their family and they were a contact of a case, we would have to make sure that everybody was fully understanding of what isolation meant and you had monitoring in place for those 14 days,” she told reporters on May 3.

Chant had previously said there appeared to have been breaches of infection control among staff with specialists deployed to the nursing home to review its procedures.

Anglicare Sydney chief executive Grant Millard on May 2 said the use of personal protective equipment was foreign to a lot of people and acknowledged “there have been some failings” at the facility.

NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay on May 3 said the situation at Newmarch House is a public health crisis.

She called on the Berejiklian government to give residents who are not infected the option of being moved to the public hospital system.