Busted: NSW aged care homes break COVID-19 rules
Exclusive: Aged care homes have been busted breaking COVID-19 rules months after the pandemic killed hundreds of elderly residents.
Government inspectors uncovered ongoing COVID-19 breaches in 15 nursing homes - nine in NSW, four in Victoria and two in Queensland - despite the deaths of 685 Australians in aged care last year.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) cut short the accreditation of Newmarch House in Kingswood until May 14 this year, after it failed an unannounced audit in July.
"Deficits were found in staff infection control practices and cleaning of equipment including during the COVID-19 outbreak,'' the audit report states.
"The service did not adequately demonstrate appropriate knowledge and practice concerning infection control.''
The alarming breaches were detected two months after COVID-19 infected 70 residents and staff, killing 17 residents at the Anglican Church-owned Newmarch House in April and May last year.
Anglicare Sydney chief executive Grant Millard said the home now has "the plans and actions in pace to minimise the impact of any future outbreak in one of our homes''.
"It has been a humbling experience for Anglicare as we have worked through all the issues raised and made changes in practice as a result of the pandemic,'' he said.
An ACQSC audit in October also criticised COVID-19 controls at St Simeon Village in Plumpton, where "consumers have left the service, unauthorised, during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, placing themselves and potentially others at risk''.
The ACQSC imposed sanctions on the Courtlands Aged Care home in North Parramatta after it failed an audit in October, when inspectors reported "non-compliant infection control''.
The audit found that "sanitiser wipes were not readily available, some staff were touching masks, slings were being shared, as well as breaches in the screening of visitors''.
The home's accreditation has been cut short to June this year, and on Monday ACQSC demanded that the centre's operator, Christadelphian Homes, provide plans to improve all services in NSW and Queensland.
Government auditors found that "infection risks were not minimised safely'' at St Charbel's Care Centre in Punchbowl, where "some staff observed were not using (PPE) correctly.''
The nursing home told the ACQSC that "some staff practices did not support infection control'' and said it would supervise and train staff.
An inspection of Lithgow Aged Care in December found that "infection prevention and control had not been maintained … and there was a lack of COVID-19 outbreak management preparedness''.
The Illawarra Multi-Cultural Village Hostel in Warrawong was ordered by ACQSC to "review and update the COVID-19 outbreak management plan and improve COVID-19 outbreak preparedness'' after sanctions were imposed in November.
Inspectors criticised "a lack of COVID-19 outbreak preparedness'' at the time of the audit.
The Heritage Botany nursing home in Sydney was slapped with a sanction in November and ordered to train more staff in PPE use.
"The service has not undertaken robust measures to minimise risk and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,'' the August audit report states.
A Heritage Botany spokesman said a Commonwealth-appointed nurse advisor was now overseeing the home.
The Salvation Army's Elizabeth Jenkins Place nursing home in Collaroy failed an audit in October, when inspectors observed empty hand sanitiser stations and staff failing to wear masks.
"Two care staff wore the same pair of gloves while they were attending to multiple residents,'' the report states.
A Salvation Army spokesman said the home had introduced new training for staff and hired a consultant to improve care.
A federal Health Department spokesman said that aged care providers are responsible for training staff in infection prevention and control, and the use of PPE.
"Providers are aware that should they require access to PPE, due to difficulty sourcing privately, the Australian Government's national medical stockpile can rapidly arrange for distribution,'' he said.
Federal Health Department data shows that COVID-19 infected 61 aged care residents in NSW and killed 28 last year.
Originally published as Busted: NSW aged care homes break COVID-19 rules