Newmarch House findings released
The Australian Government has released findings from the investigation into the spread of COVID-19 at Sydney aged-care facility Newmarch House.
Offering condolences to the families of the 19 residents who died as a result of the outbreak between April and June, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said lessons learned are being implemented to offer greater protections as we continue to combat the pandemic.
“The outbreak at Anglicare’s Newmarch House was incredibly challenging and underlined the impact this infection can have within an aged-care facility,” Minister Colbeck said.
“The Australian Government is committed to learning from the experience at Newmarch House and to doing all we can to ensure aged-care providers are prepared to address future outbreaks so that residents receive safe and quality care.”
In June 2020, Chief Medical Officer (now Secretary of the Department of Health) Professor Brendan Murphy commissioned Professor Lyn Gilbert and Adjunct Professor Alan Lilly to undertake the independent review. Stakeholders were consulted, including family members of residents, to provide a comprehensive breakdown of what led to the outbreak and how authorities responded to it.
Minister Colbeck said the review is an important resource for all levels of government that would improve the management of potential future outbreaks and inform advice and guidance to support the aged-care sector.
“We continue to integrate the learnings from Newmarch and infections in Victoria into the national response as outbreaks occur,” Minister Colbeck said.
Changes already implemented include:
- Ensuring early identification of all COVID-19 cases via immediate and repeated testing of all residents and staff as soon as the first case is identified.
- Actions to reinforce compromised management.
- Immediate engagement of advocacy group Older People’s Advocacy Network (OPAN) to ensure services and information are available to providers, residents and their families.
- The provision of support from the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (in Victoria) to improve communication, staff and management support.
- Expansion of surge workforce providers for facilities affected by outbreaks.
- Practical additional infection-control training, including support from AUSMAT.
The Australian Government is supporting the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in its monitoring efforts. The Commission continues to take decisive steps related to the issuing of corrective action to ensure providers and management respond appropriately and levels of care are met.
Minister Colbeck said throughout the pandemic there has also been regular, ongoing communication to the aged-care sector about managing outbreaks, including providing updated advice incorporating learnings from Australia and other countries.
The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) outbreak guidelines are supported by a ‘First 24 hours’ document, which provides aged-care facilities with practical steps that should be taken following the identification of a positive COVID-19 case.
“Each of these implemented actions are another step toward reinforcing the sector and ultimately protecting senior and vulnerable Australians,” Minister Colbeck said. “The government’s measures to tackle COVID-19 in aged care now exceed $1 billion.”
The release of the independent review findings comes amid strong criticism of the government following the Senate Select Committee hearing on Australia’s response to COVID-19 held on 21 August.
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