Presbyterian Church describes 'crazy' evacuation at Kirkbrae aged care home after mounting coronavirus cases

| 01.08,20. 11:56 AM |

Presbyterian Church describes 'crazy' evacuation at Kirkbrae aged care home after mounting coronavirus cases

There are 87 COVID-19 cases linked to Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Melbourne's outer east.(ABC News: Darryl Torpy)

As ambulances arrived at Kirkbrae nursing home in Melbourne's outer east
to evacuate residents this week, staff at the home
asked the drivers a question: where, exactly, were
?they taking them

Soon, there were barely even any staff left to ask the question.

The operator says that of about 140 workers, 41 tested positive for coronavirus and 97 were told to self-isolate, leaving only four remaining to care for about 80 residents.

The Kilsyth centre shut to visitors immediately after a staff member had a positive test confirmed on July 19.

Earlier this week, Eastern Health were brought in to help operate the centre, but were given little guidance about what to do.

"We were told there was no adequate handover," Colin Morrow, the head of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, which owns the home, told the ABC.

But we were damned if we did and damned if we didn't. The department told us our staff had to isolate."

Eastern Health did not answer detailed questions about its involvement at Kirkbrae, but confirmed it had stepped in earlier this week after a request from the Victorian Government.

Uncertainty over where residents were taken
Mr Morrow said the logic behind the evacuations was "crazy".

The home's 80 residents were all expected to be transported to hospital, but in the end, only 29 people were moved.

He said it had been difficult explaining to some families that they didn't actually know where their loved ones had been taken.

Some of those who had tested positive were evacuated, but others were taken from the home despite testing negative.

Three residents died, including one who passed away at the nursing home, but the evacuations have now stopped, and the cluster is deemed under control, despite 87 people being infected.

"I don't have more details about the resident who died at the home but it was very distressing, I know, for the team and for their family," Mr Morrow said.

Thirty-seven Kirkbrae residents have tested positive to coronavirus.

Funding under threat
Kirkbrae is now one of six Victorian homes at risk of having Commonwealth funding removed unless they comply with wide ranging conditions imposed by the industry's quality watchdog.

This week, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission issued "notices to agree" to the operators of the aged care homes with the largest clusters in Victoria: St Basil's in Fawkner (124 cases), Epping Gardens (115), Kirkbrae (87), Menarock Life in Essendon (63), and Estia's homes in Ardeer (104) and Heidelberg West (82).

Under the notices, operators agree to a range of conditions, including appointing an eligible advisor, not admitting new residents, daily meetings with the commission until all positive cases linked to the centre are cleared, weekly written reports to the commission, and compliance with Victorian health authorities.

Some of the notices remain current until January.

An Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on why only some of the homes with significant clusters in Victoria had been issued with notices.

An ABC analysis has also found that one in three of the Victorian nursing homes with clusters of more than 50 cases were found to be non-compliant with at least one quality standard during their most recent audit by the commission.

Kirkbrae was "unable to demonstrate effective use of chemical restraint" after an audit in March this year found a resident had been subject to restraints without appropriate assessment and monitoring processes.

Glendale Aged Care, in Werribee, where there have been 59 cases, was found to not meet three of eight aged care quality standards following an audit last September.

The standards that were not met included ensuring residents had safe and effective personal and clinical care, demonstrating effective management of risk and minimising infection risks.

Baptcare in Wyndham, which has 52 cases, was subject to an audit on January 16 that resulted in a decision to issue a notice of non-compliance on February 17, but no further information was available about the assessment.

As of yesterday, there had been 61 deaths and 1088 infections linked to the recent aged care outbreak, the vast majority of which were recorded in privately-operated homes.

Seventy-three aged care facilities were classified as having open outbreaks, meaning it had been less than 28 days since the last case entered isolation or was admitted to hospital.

In a submission to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the COVID-19 response, Aged Care Crisis, an independent community-based group, argued that the widespread privatisation of the aged care system resulted in worse outcomes for residents.

The submission was made in early July, before the crisis fully took hold in Victorian nursing homes.

Church leader prays for end to crisis
But given the recriminations that broke out between the Andrews and Morrison governments this week about who to blame for the bungled handling of some clusters, it provided a prescient recommendation: responsibility for the sector should be handed to the states, as had first been recommended after a wide-ranging review of the sector in 1982.

"Responsibility for management, oversight and regulation should be transferred from the Commonwealth to the states and funded like health care," submission authors Dr Michael Wynne and Lynda Saltarelli wrote.

Mr Morrow, who is also a pastor in Mildura, is praying for a way out of the crisis. And he is praying for our politicians

He recoiled this week when Mr Andrews said that he would not want his mother in some of the homes suffering outbreaks.

"People wanting to lay blame, my thought at the moment is: sort the problem first," he said.

"Then we can come back later and learn."


(Votes: 0)

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