‘Sadness and terror’: Families fear the worst as aged care workers test positive

‘Sadness and terror’: Families fear the worst as aged care workers test positive

Rathdowne Place said the Department of Health and Human Services had confirmed the GP was considered infectious when he met with two residents for a short period of time last Wednesday.

The granddaughter of a woman who lives in the home, who wants to remain anonymous, received an email notifying her of the doctor’s positive diagnosis on Sunday.

A GP who had visited the Rathdowne Place aged care home in Carlton (above) on March 25 has tested positive for COVID-19.

A GP who had visited the Rathdowne Place aged care home in Carlton (above) on March 25 has tested positive for COVID-19. Credit:Joe Armao

She said she was worried about her grandmother, who she fears she may never be able to see in person again.

“It’s just that awful feeling that if she’s locked in and safe is one thing, but locked in with COVID-19, even without COVID and locked in for six months, will I ever get to see her again at 98?” the woman said.

Four nursing home residents have died with coronavirus in Sydney after an outbreak at the Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Macquarie Park.

Ms Pititto said the news at Assisi was “a real worry”.

“I knew there was a strong possibility of staff being infected with the virus as no one knows what happens when they leave their work place. Yet we are not allowed to visit our family member for safety reasons,” she said.

“I am certain that staff are overwhelmed at the moment with caring for all the residents and keeping the place extra clean. Family members used to go at meal times to feed their loved ones and see everyone else.

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“It is hard to contain one’s sadness and terror of what is to come. Hopefully it won’t spread.”

Assisi families were told the infected staff member worked in St Claire last Wednesday.

The health department did not consider the case to be a risk to residents because the staff member became unwell two days after her last shift, the chief executive’s letter said. Cleaning and screening had increased and no resident had test positive, he said.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely checking resident temperatures regularly during the day.”

Families from Rathdowne Place received an email from Krishan Sivagnanam, the general manager of Australian Unity, which runs the Carlton facility, saying they had been advised residents and employees didn’t require testing due to lack of close contact.

One employee who had been in close contact with the GP is now self isolating.

‘It is hard to contain one’s sadness and terror of what is to come. Hopefully it won’t spread.’

Josephine Pititto, the daughter of an Assisi Centre resident

The nursing home would monitor the temperatures of residents and employees as a precaution, the email said. Extra cleaning would also be carried out.

Victorians without symptoms can’t currently be tested for COVID-19.

“This situation understandably makes many of us anxious about how the virus may impact us, our families and friends,” the email said.

“The safety and wellbeing of our residents and employees remains our top priority during this time. Australian Unity is well prepared for this situation and we ask for your continued understanding and co-operation.”

“We are continuing to manage the situation in accordance with the current public health advice and are following appropriate infectious disease management protocols.”

Australian Unity said their medical advice was that there is an “extremely low risk” of transmission for those who were in contact with the GP.

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“One employee who had close contact with the general practitioner is now self-isolating in line with guidance from the public health unit,” a spokesman said.

“Residents, along with family members of those residents, who are known to have been seen recently by the general practitioner have also been advised [of the positive test].

“The safety and wellbeing of our customers and our people is always our first priority. We will continue to engage with health and other regulatory authorities in the management of this matter.”

Sixteen healthcare workers have now been publicly confirmed to have COVID-19 in Victoria.

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In addition to the aged care cases and the six employees at Eastern Health, which operates Box Hill Hospital, Maroondah Hospital and several other services in Melbourne’s east, there has also been four staff at the Mercy Hospital, three at The Alfred hospital and a Toorak GP.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said authorities were closely monitoring aged care and staff who felt unwell should immediately self-isolate.

“Certainly nursing homes are a huge risk, we understand the vulnerability of everyone who lives in nursing homes, it’s a closed setting so transmission becomes really difficult to manage,” Dr Sutton told Nine News.

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