NSW Health says it will be testing parents and children who visited a Sydney aged care facility where an elderly resident died after being infected with coronavirus.
- Brad Hazzard has declared NSW is in “a war with coronavirus”
- He wants it to be easier to access federal funding to deal with outbreaks in nursing homes
- The total number of positive cases in NSW rose to 22 on Wednesday night
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said a group of 17 children from the Banksia Cottage, at Macquarie University campus, visited BaptistCare’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged care facility on February 24.
Following the visit there was an outbreak of illness at the childcare centre, with one staff member and the partner of another developing respiratory illnesses.
Both were tested and cleared of having the coronavirus.
Mr Hazzard today said there was no indication the children had been infected with the virus or were responsible for infecting the residents at the nursing home.
However, a clinic will be run tonight where all parents and children from the childcare centre can be assessed for coronavirus.
“This is for the abundance of caution because I think it is really important that we understand what viruses are being spread in this childcare centre and what is the cause,” NSW chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant said.
Chris Zheng’s four-year-old daughter attends the childcare centre and he said he would like her to be tested for coronavirus.
“I’m a bit worried … a test will always help,” Mr Zheng said.
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Macquarie University said it had been advised by NSW Health that there was no need to close the childcare centre.
Staff failed to turn up for work at the nursing home after a 95-year-old resident died and later tested positive for the disease, in what was the second coronavirus-related death in Australia.
Two other residents and a staff member have also tested positive.
Several residents at Dorothy Henderson Lodge are now in isolation. (ABC News: Liv Casben)
The aged care staff member had contact with at least 13 residents at the home.
Dr Chant said the staff member was not working the day the children visited.
Matters came to a head yesterday when NSW Health was forced to scramble nurses to the aged care facility.
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Mr Hazzard said he asked his federal counterpart Greg Hunt for emergency funding to cover the cost of nursing staff.
But he said he was told he would need to go through the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority.
“This is now a war, it’s a war with coronavirus,” he said.
“We need to know that the Federal Government’s got our back, and if we make decisions that are nimble, in the interests of patients, in the interests of citizens, and it costs state taxpayers, then the Federal Government will back us on that funding.
“The response I got yesterday indicated a fairly bureaucratic process that we’d have to go through — that’s just not reasonable.”
Tracing the source
On Wednesday night, health authorities updated the total number of confirmed cases in NSW to 22 and was scrambling to ascertain how individuals without recent overseas travel history became infected.
One of the new cases of infection, a 27-year-old female doctor from Liverpool Hospital, was found to have attended a radiology seminar with 77 other medical professionals on February 18.
Another doctor who tested positive to the virus, a 53-year-old man from Ryde Hospital, had gone to the same conference but no other attendees the two doctors had contact with had shown any symptoms of the virus.
At Ryde Hospital, 61 staff have been placed in self-isolation and 56 patients have been identified as close or casual contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case.
“So we have had tracing going on … these are a bit like a police investigation in sense,” Mr Hazzard said.
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He said the situation was evolving.
“NSW Health is doing everything they can to try contain it, but we do know that containment is an unlikely outcome.”
“Our community has to be doing everything they can do to support us in defeating what has really become a war in defeating this coronavirus.”
He called for better cooperation between the states and the Commonwealth to make sure emergency funding was made available when needed.
The ABC has contacted Mr Hunt and Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck for comment.
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About 100 aged care homes around the country will be audited to make sure they can protect their residents against the spread of coronavirus.
Janet Anderson, the aged care quality and safety commissioner, will oversee the audit.
“We want all of our services … to be compliant with best practice infection prevention and control,” she said.
Health authorities are issuing advice to all aged care facilities to cancel all group visits from childcare centres as a precaution.
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