Concerns for elderly residents’ wellbeing as COVID-19 spreads through Queensland’s aged care homes

Aged care homes are already bearing the brunt of COVID-19 surge across Queensland, with a major outbreak at one Brisbane facility leaving three residents and five staff infected in the past seven days.

Key points:

  • Industry body spokesman Paul Sadler said the virus was spreading so widely it had already become a "difficult situation" 
  • Mr Sadler said the federal government needed to step in and help the providers
  • There's also a danger of PPE supplies running low

Lockdowns are also in place at seven other aged care homes in southern Queensland after vaccinated staff members tested positive this week.

Measures to contain the outbreaks in the facilities have seen some residents potentially facing confinement to their rooms for more than a week and cut off from loved ones.

Aged care industry body spokesman Paul Sadler said the virus was spreading so widely it had already become a "difficult situation" that was impacting on residents and causing staff shortages as well as concerns about the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).

"The word I'm getting is the sector is really struggling,'' said Mr Sadler who is the chief executive of Aged and Community Services Australia.

A team member at the Carseldine Greens Care Community in Brisbane tested positive.(ABC News: Michael Lloyd)

Anglicare yesterday confirmed three residents who had been in a room together at the St Martins facility at Taigum had tested positive.

A spokesman said the three were fully vaccinated, had been transferred to hospital as a precaution, and were doing well.

He said five staff members from St Martins had also tested positive and were now isolating.

The spokesman said another Anglicare facility, Symes Grove also at Taigum, had a fully vaccinated staff member who had tested positive.

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He said a number of staff at the facility were now isolating.

"Our team is working closely with the Metro North Public Health Unit and the Commonwealth Department of Health to manage the situation,'' he said.

"It's a really challenging time for everyone, but we are encouraged by all of our aged care staff being fully vaccinated and very high vaccination levels among our residents."

Carinity homes in Queensland have also been impacted.

Queensland COVID-19 snapshot

Reported in the past 24 hours:

  • New cases: 2,222
  • Tests: 35,179

Queensland's vaccine rollout (percentage of those aged 16+):

  • First dose: 90.6 per cent
  • Second dose: 86.4 per cent

Latest case information from Queensland Health.

In statements on its website, the provider listed four of its homes where there had been a fully vaccinated staff member test positive and reassured that a response was underway to protect residents.

The homes included Carinity Colthup Manor at Ipswich, the Carinity Brookfield Green at Brookfield in Brisbane's western suburbs, Carinity Wishart Gardens at Wishart on Brisbane's south side and Carinity Kepnock Grove in Bundaberg.

Non-essential visits had been suspended until further notice and COVID-19 testing of staff and residents was underway at the facilities.

A statement on the organisation's website said contact tracing was underway to reach out to visitors and any family or friends who were at the home while the staff member was at work.

Staff were now wearing full PPE and residents' movements have been limited.

A resident in one of the homes, who asked not to be identified, said they were told they could be "confined to their rooms" with meals delivered by staff wearing masks and other PPE.

Residents' wellbeing 'of vital importance'

Yesterday, Carinity marketing and communications director Brett Maunder said that, so far, there had been no transmission of COVID-19 within any of the organisation's facilities.

"[The staff] contracted the virus outside the facility. One of them has only been advised today. It's very early and there is still testing occurring, which is at Colthup Manor.

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"We are sticking with the current public health guidance of securing the facility and limiting resident movement as much as possible.

"The residents' wellbeing is of vital importance to us."

Mr Maunder said that, if residents were distressed at their movements being limited, there were measures that could be taken to ease their concerns.

He said that, in one case, they had arranged for a distressed resident to go out wearing full PPE.

On Tuesday, South Cross Care Duhig Village at Holland Park on Brisbane's southside posted a notice on its website to say a fully vaccinated staff member had tested positive.

The statement said the facility was subject to restricted access orders as a result of a positive case.

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It said the staff member was asymptomatic and staff at the home were required to wear full PPE gear at all times.

"Do not attend Duhig Village until you are advised you are able to,'' the statement said.

Efforts to contact Duhig Village operators was unsuccessful yesterday.

Southern Cross aged care centre in Holland Park first responded to a positive case of COVID-19 at the facility in the days after the state's border opened.(ABC News: Michael Lloyd)

Late yesterday, Opal Health Care confirmed a team member at the Carseldine Greens Care Community in Brisbane had tested positive.

Company communications director Roseanne Cartwright said the team member was double-vaccinated and every step was being taken to protect residents and staff by following government guidelines.

She said the care community was in lockdown and no visitors were allowed, except for "end-of-life" visits.

"Residents are isolating in their rooms and having meals in their rooms,'' she said.

While providers were moving to protect residents from becoming sick, they are still likely to face major issues, especially around staffing levels and supply of PPE.

Paul Sadler from Aged and Community Services Australia says there are concerns about the supply of personal protective equipment for staff.(ABC News)

Mr Sadler said the federal government needed to step in and help providers.

He said the biggest concern was staffing.

"We are calling on the government to take immediate steps on staffing levels, including funding for an increase wages and specific programs to encourage registered nurses, enrolled nurses and care nurses to enter the aged care workforce,'' he said.

Mr Sadler said the other challenge related to the supply of PPE.

"We are beginning to hear of shortages since the early stages of last year. The rapid increase of numbers is putting pressure on the availability and, by the new year, we are hearing that aged care homes have only two or three days' supply,'' he said.

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