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An aged care resident who twice tested negative for coronavirus at plagued Newmarch House aged care home has died of the disease, bringing the death toll to 14.
The sad news has emerged this morning, as families beg managers of the facility to let them take their relatives home.
Ann Fahey, 76, died at 4.05pm at Nepean Hospital in Penrith on Saturday.
Her family said she had twice tested positive to the virus before falling gravely ill.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant this morning revealed families of residents who were COVID-19 negative could apply to remove them from the home but they would have to first endure a 14-day quarantine at a hospital ward or family residence.
Delivering an update on the NSW coronavirus situation at midday today, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the state had a total of 3,035 cases with 2,306 people recovered.
In regard to Newmarch House, Mr Hazzard announced daily testing of staff entering Newmarch House would soon begin, following advice on this matter from health experts.
He said this was a measure which was not available in the past but was possible now.
“It’s not a good thing to be blaming people who are on the front line doing their best, so if we can support those people in any way we will.”
“(Testing to this degree) has never happened before in any aged care facility. Right now we’re in a better space to be able to do that. We have more available testing equipment.”
“What the infectious disease specialists on the ground are saying is that they have done everything short of this and (since) we have the capacity to do this, we might as well have a go.”
He said investigators were looking into whether the virus had spread within the centre or from community sources outside the centre.
“I think Anglicare have taken the advice of medical staff and done what they can. My only issue with Anglicare is around communication, that there were families outside saying they weren’t getting information,” he said.
He said he could not comment on reports that the family of Ms Fahey had tried three times to remove her from Newmarch House and had not been able to.
Dr Chant said medical experts were currently looking at many scenarios in regards to improving the situation at Newmarch House, including moving the well people out or the sick people out.
On the broader NSW situation, she said there are currently 106 people being treated by NSW Health for coronavirus. Of these, 14 were in intensive care and 11 were on ventilators. One quarter of the cases were non-acute.
INSIDE NEWMARCH HOUSE
Anthony Bowe’s mother Patricia, 76, has battled the virus for 16 days and has been waiting to test negative but he claimed staff were too busy to get round to her.
“My mother is over the worst, we are desperate to get her out, as soon as a staff member gets round to testing her negative the first thing I will do is get it her out of there,” he said.
“Why would you leave anyone who is healthy in that home when the managers are clearly struggling to get the virus under control there?
“Over the weekend there were three new cases and people keep dying.
“The managers keep saying there is a long incubation period but three cases over the weekend which included staff is nothing to do with incubation.
“Something is wrong at that home. What they doing isn’t working, I want my mum out.”
Ms Fahey is the 14th resident of Anglicare’s Newmarch House in Caddens, near Penrith, to die after testing positive to coronavirus, after a carer inadvertently worked five days at the home while infected.
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Ms Fahey is believed to have returned two negative test results before the third confirmed she had contracted the virus.
Her death comes as an investigation is launched into whether there has been a breach of infection control methods at the 102-resident facility.
A total of 61 people — 24 staff and 37 residents — have now tested positive for COVID-19.
Anglicare said it was “deeply saddened” that another resident had died and announced control specialists had been deployed to oversee the control of the infection.
“This is a very sad time for the family and a distressing and challenging time for residents and staff as we deal with the impact of this dreadful virus. It is so highly infectious,” Anglicare Sydney CEO Grant Millard said in a statement.
“In addition, 26 staff have tested positive and as a consequence 63 have been in self isolation.
“The carers who we discovered were infected on Friday were experienced with infectious disease situations which indicates just how contagious this virus is and how difficult to contain.”
Alternative accommodation options for people who are COVID-19 negative are being discussed with some residents and their families.
“Of course this is possible, provided there is a good understanding of the risks and precautionary measures that this would involve — for the resident and their families,” Mr Millard said.
NSW Health has deployed two infection control nurses to the facility to review its procedures.
“We’ve clearly seen transmission that on the surface looks like there’s been breaches of infection control amongst particularly the staff,” Dr Chant said.
“And that’s obviously a concern. There are have been some elements where consistent application of infection control practice has not occurred.”
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has defended the staff who had spread infection, saying dealing with the virus was “like almost going to the moon”.
But he conceded there had been breaches of health protocols.
“It only takes a moment. Our doctors are highly trained, but like everybody else you can make a mistake.”
Mr Millard said the use of personal protective equipment was foreign to a lot of people and acknowledged “there have been some failings” at the facility.
NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay called on the government to give all Newmarch House residents, even ones who were healthy, the option of being moved to the public hospital system.
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