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Victorian coronavirus outbreaks in aged care homes swell as St Basil's in Melbourne evacuated

ABC News logo ABC News 31/07/2020
a truck is parked on the side of a road: Several ambulances could be seen transporting residents out of the home on Friday afternoon. (ABC News) © Provided by ABC Health Several ambulances could be seen transporting residents out of the home on Friday afternoon. (ABC News)

Health authorities are moving every resident from St Basil's aged care home into hospital in a bid to save lives and deliver better care, as the biggest aged care home outbreak in Victoria continues to spread.

The St Basil's home in Fawkner is now linked to 124 cases, including 78 residents, 35 staff and 11 other contacts.

The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, a joint state and federal task force, said the decision to fully evacuate the home was made after six staff brought in to help manage the outbreak were infected in recent days.

"The decision was made to transfer residents to hospitals due to a reduction in staff numbers at St Basil's," the centre said in a statement.

"Six staff at St Basil's have tested positive for COVID-19, and as a precautionary measure all staff have been instructed to be tested and self-isolate for a mandatory period."

Australia's Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan said the decision had not been made lightly and acknowledged there were risks with moving residents, particularly those with dementia.

"But it was felt that it was time that we do this for the safety of the residents," she said.

"It highlights the challenges we face in managing this outbreak. So it was staff that came to help in that difficult time 10 days ago and have now unfortunately tested positive."

Federal and state health teams are aiming to move the remaining 30 residents out of the home by the end of Friday.

There have been 94 outbreaks in aged care homes, which have been linked to 61 deaths.

The 10 active aged care outbreaks with the highest number of cases are the following:

  • St Basil's Home for the Aged in Fawkner: 124 cases (78 residents, 35 staff and 11 other)
  • Epping Gardens Aged Care: 115 cases (76 residents, 22 staff and 17 other)
  • Estia's aged care home at Ardeer: 104 cases (49 residents, 53 staff and 2 other)
  • Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth: 87 cases (44 residents, 34 staff and 9 other)
  • Estia's aged care home in Heidelberg: 82 cases (23 residents, 44 staff and 15 other)
  • Menarock Life's aged care home in Essendon: 63 cases (19 resident cases, 25 staff and 19 other)
  • Glendale Aged Care in Werribee: 58 cases (29 residents, 20 staff and 9 other)
  • Outlook Gardens aged care home in Dandenong North: 55 cases (18 residents, 23 staff, 14 other)
  • BaptCare Wyndham Lodge in Werribee: 52 cases (27 residents, 25 staff)
  • Arcare's aged care home in Craigieburn: 45 cases (25 residents, 20 staff)

Professor McMillan said face masks and face shields were now being handed out to every aged care home in the state.

She said additional training would be provided to ensure the personal protective equipment (PPE) was being properly used.

Families suffering regret and grief, isolated from parents

Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT), usually deployed to overseas disasters, have been sent into at least two other aged care homes.

It comes as families with relatives in homes struck by outbreaks continue to struggle to support their loved ones and chase up information from overwhelmed workers.

John Jasinski said his 95-year-old father Stanislaw, a resident at Epping Gardens, was admitted to hospital on Friday after testing positive to coronavirus.

He said he spoke to his father over the phone on Sunday and could tell something was wrong, but staff told him "he's just got a bit of a cold".

"That worried me from there on the communication we had, it was so bad this place will not pick up the phone," Mr Jasinski said.

Mr Jasinski became emotional when he described his regret at putting his father into the centre.

"I put him in January, I'm sorry I did it now I could lose him," he said.

Heritage Care, which operates Epping Gardens, told families earlier this week that it had advocated for residents to be taken to hospital in the early stages of the outbreak.

Victorian health authorities have relied upon a "case-by-case" assessment of whether a resident who tests positive to coronavirus can be isolated and cared for in the aged care home, or must be transferred to hospital.

Menarock Life aged care and St Basil's are believed to be the only two aged care homes which have been entirely evacuated of residents due to coronavirus outbreaks.

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