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Aged care homes are failing to meet health standards while nurses are sourcing their own PPE

More than 100 aged care homes across Australia have been hit with non-compliance notices, while more than a dozen failed to meet crucial health standards amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Almost 30 nursing homes were told to make ‘significant improvements’ and 14 in New South Wales alone did not meet personal or clinical care standards.

Another seven facilities in NSW were found to not have proper infection control procedures in place during the outbreak of the deadly virus.

The embattled aged care sector has been hit badly by the pandemic, with at least 212 residents dying since March.

The Aged Care Quality Commission issued 104 aged care facilities with non compliance notices between March and May.

A string of these were operating in NSW, including the coronavirus-riddled Newmarch House which failed to meet clinical care and infection control, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The facility in Western Sydney has been one of the state’s deadliest outbreaks, with 17 residents dying and more than 30 cases in staff.

Other homes including Bupa Aged Care Dural and Uniting Hawkesbury Richmond were given notices about infection control.

The Dural home said all staff had since had infection control training and a spokesperson for Uniting said a plan had been placed for better hygiene and outbreak control. 

‘We have worked hard to implement a continuous improvement plan and are making significant progress. We have engaged regularly with residents and their loved ones on this plan,’ a United spokesperson said.

‘We are confident that we’re addressing all concerns at Hawkesbury Richmond and that we’ll be able to demonstrate full compliance with all standards and requirements. The Commission visited the service in May 2020 to review our COVID-19 Response Plan and provided positive feedback about the preventative and response actions we have implemented.

‘The safety and well-being of our residents and team members is absolutely critical.’ 

HammondCare had four facilities failing to meet personal and clinical care standards with a spokesman saying an ‘action plan’ was set in place after the warning, and an education program for staff.

‘HammondCare has a strong track record on clinical care and is committed to ensure not only a positive quality of life for residents, but a high quality of clinical care,’ General Manager of Residential Care, Angela Raguz said. 

‘None of the matters highlighted by the ACQSC related to infection control or were related to COVID-19 transmission. Our pandemic plan, including our concierge screening for visitors, is in full operation and we work closely with Public Health Units and state and federal governments.’ 

Peter Rozen, counsel assisting the Aged Care Royal Commission said the sector was not prepared for the pandemic.

‘While there was undoubtedly a great deal done to prepare the Australian health sector more generally for the pandemic, the evidence will reveal that neither the Commonwealth Department of Health nor the aged care regulator developed a COVID-19 plan specifically for the aged care sector,’ he said on Monday

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly exposed all of the flaws of the aged care sector.

‘To put it very directly, older people are not less deserving of care because they are old.’  

The shocking revelation into the health standards of aged care homes comes as it was found one in five public nurses were having to fund their own PPE.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians released a survey on Monday that found 20 per cent of nurses in public hospitals had to source their own protective gear.

Nearly half of respondents said they had limited access to N95/P2 masks and only  61 per cent of respondents reported having had recent workplace training in the use of PPE.

John Wilson, RACP President and Respiratory Physician Professor said the results were alarming.

‘It’s not good enough that one in five have limited access to surgical masks. It’s remarkable that some are resorting to sourcing their own PPE,’ he said.

‘Afterall, what is the cost difference between optimal N95 masks and less-protective surgical masks? This is a troubling warning sign of what may be coming for our medical workforce.

‘At a bare minimum, the government must start providing transparent updates on the status of the national stockpile. If there is a real shortage, priority must be given to those in higher-risk areas where COVID and suspected-COVID patients are treated.

‘I suspect that a similar survey of aged-care facilities will be just as revealing.’

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