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Friday, December 8, 2023

Facility boss’s admission a stark reality as concerning cluster spreads

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The operator of the Baulkham Hills nursing home in northwest Sydney, where five residents have contracted the coronavirus, admits there would be no one to provide care if employment was restricted to those already vaccinated.

Two thirds of the facility’s workforce of around 200 people are unvaccinated.

Last week, national cabinet agreed all aged care facility workers must be vaccinated, with everyone to get at least one jab by September.

SummitCare chief operating officer Michelle Sloane said today (Monday) that she’d personally urged staff members to seek out COVID-19 vaccination. However the operators are not yet in a position to insist they get jabbed.

With only nine per cent of Australians aged over 16 fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Sloane said all frontline services were grappling with the same problem.

“If we said to all of our unvaccinated staff ‘don’t come to work’, there’d be no one to care,” Sloane told reporters.

“That is not just us but every aged care business across Australia and every hospital across Australia.

“While we take the right precautions with the right masks and the right protective gear, those residents are as safe as our staff are safe.”

It comes after two SummitCare staff members worked while infectious.

Kathie Melocco, whose parents Allan and Lona Patrick live at SummitCare, is angry her 88-year-old father is one of three residents who contracted the virus from an unvaccinated carer.

She’s also told Sydney radio 2GB that SummitCare sent an email to families on Sunday night saying a further two residents had tested positive to the virus, taking the tally to five.

The email said the residents were comfortable and asymptomatic but were being transferred to Westmead Hospital as a precaution.

Melocco is furious families weren’t told that two thirds of the carers at the home had not been vaccinated.

“Dad was vaccinated and after all the trouble we’ve had in aged care (we assumed) that the jab was given to staff at the same time,” she said.

“No-one told us they weren’t vaccinated and as a family we have right to know.

“In aged care, it’s one of the most dangerous places in Australia.”

Council of Aging Chief Executive Ian Yates said the vaccine rollout to aged care workers had been too slow and he had been “very concerned about this for a long time”.

“We have basically got all homes covered, the vast majority of residents covered, but the way that COVID has entered aged care in the past has always been through asymptomatic staff,” he told Nine’s Today show this morning.

“They need to speed up the vaccination of staff everywhere. This is not just a Sydney problem, this is a problem around the country.”

There were 16 local COVID-19 cases recorded in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday.

Three of those cases were out in the community during some or all of their infectious period. There have now been 277 local COVID-19 cases reported since June 16.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the dip in case numbers was a good sign, and urged residents to respect stay-at-home orders if they want any hope of emerging from lockdown on Friday.

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