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Premier Daniel Andrews said he wouldn’t let his mum be in some of the state’s private aged care facilities grappling with coronavirus outbreaks.
“My mother is in her mid-70s, she has some underlying health issues but she lives at home,” he said.
“Some of the stories we’ve seen are unacceptable and I wouldn’t want my mum in some of those places, but that’s not a matter for me.”
“I can’t change that … I would not let my mum be in some of these places. I just wouldn’t. But that’s not a decision I have to make at the moment because she’s living at home.”
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt fought back tears as he defended aged care workers after Daniel Andrews criticised private providers.
Mr Hunt praised the care his father had received in an aged care home, and said he believed hundreds of thousands of Australians would feel the same way.
“The idea that our carers, that our nurses are not providing that care is, I think, a dangerous statement to make,” he said.
“I will not hear a word against them.”
Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan, who attended coronavirus-plagued St Basil’s nursing home at Fawkner last week, asked people not be “frightened”.
She said staff had good training and plenty of personal protective equipment.
media_cameraMilitary personnel support healthcare workers at Epping Gardens aged care facility. Picture: Getty
The peak aged care body has hit back at Daniel Andrews’s criticism of some private providers, saying it was hurtful and unhelpful amid the coronavirus crisis.
Leading Age Services Australia’s policy general manager Tim Hicks said the Premier’s comments on Tuesday were “disappointing and hurtful for many aged care providers and their dedicated staff who are working tirelessly around the clock to protect residents”.
“The Premier’s comments about not wanting his own mother in some of the affected homes was unhelpful and will deepen fears, when local providers, state and federal authorities and the Australian Defence Force are working so hard to save lives,” he said.
DEFENCE FORCE RAISES SAFETY CONCERNS
Defence force personnel deployed to support Victorian aged care workers have raised concerns about the safety of troops in some of the facilities.
Almost 1500 ADF personnel have been deployed across Victorian aged care facilities to provide support as COVID-19 sweeps the sector.
media_cameraMembers of the ADF arrive at Epping Gardens nursing home. Picture: David Crosling
But government sources have told the Herald Sun serious concerns have been raised about the safety of troops because of the high number of outbreaks in certain facilities.
It is understood specific concerns were raised about Epping’s Epping Gardens Aged Care where approximately 82 people have contracted COVID-19.
There have been two deaths associated with the outbreak.
Authorities are currently planning to move up to 45 patients from the facility.
– Shannon Deery
SIX DEATHS, 384 NEW CASES
Another six Victorians have died and 384 new cases have been added to the state’s spiralling coronavirus tally.
Victoria’s death toll now stands at 83, which is one less than the 84 COVID-19 deaths recorded across the rest of Australia.
Among the six deaths were two people in their 90s, three in their 80s, one in their 70s – four of the deaths have been linked to aged care.
media_cameraHazardous waste is removed from St. Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner. Picture: Getty
There are 4774 active cases in the state and 414 of those are health workers.
Tuesday’s new case number was a small reprieve after a record 532 cases was announced in the state on Monday.
There are 260 Victorians in hospital, with 45 of those being treated in ICU.
Regional Victoria has about 180 active cases.
Victoria has recorded a total of 9049 coronavirus cases since the crisis began.
Mr Hunt said if Victoria cannot get the virus under control, the nation would be put at risk.
He said the state’s troubles began with a hotel quarantine breach that had “catastrophic human outcomes”.
It comes as the Australian Medical Association has demanded a royal commission into Victoria’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The AMA says a powerful inquiry is needed to find out what went wrong — from hotel quarantine to contact tracing and aged-care facilities.
‘SAS OF MEDICAL WORLD’ DEPLOYED TO AGED CARE
An elite medical assistance team will be deployed to Victoria to support the response to the aged care crisis.
Mr Hunt said the AUSMAT team was “the best of the best” and would be on the ground soon.
“They are the SAS of the medical world,” he said.
media_cameraHealthcare workers begin moving sick residents from Epping Gardens nursing home. Picture: David Crosling
The federal government is also sharing five million masks and 500,000 face shields to bolster the aged care system.
Nurses will also be deployed from hospitals to aged care centres in the bid to stem the rising case numbers with 80 separate outbreaks and 764 cases linked to the sector.
Under the plan particular aged care homes will be targeted and residents moved out if there are concerns raised by the specialist medical teams.
Up to 200 residents have already been moved from facilities into hospitals.
To free up space elective surgeries have taken a further hit with non-urgent Category 2 elective surgery cancelled.
Mr Andrews said it was a time for action after some actions taken were “unacceptable”.
The move to help the sector came after the Federal Government asked for help, prompting the response by the state medical teams, Mr Andrews said.
At least 50 patients are expected to be moved in the near future in facilities unable to quarantined.
media_cameraVictorian Health Minster Jenny Mikakos becomes emotional when talking about the effect of the aged care outbreak on the Greek community. Picture: Ian Currie
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos paused for a moment to compose her self as she talked about the St. Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Victoria
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos was brought to tears while announcing more deaths in Melbourne aged-care homes.
Ms Mikakos appeared to choke up while expressing her condolences to family members who had suffered loss.
She said the number of cases and fatalities in the aged care sector was “distressing … and we need to ensure we have the beds and staff available”.
“We have now had the ability to free up hundreds of beds in our healthcare system from today,” she said.
“Regional hospitals will not be impacted by these changes.”
ELECTIVE SURGERY ON HOLD
Elective surgery other than Category 1 cases have been suspended to free up hospital beds and healthcare workers amid Victoria’s surging virus numbers.
Premier Daniel Andrews made the announcement on Tuesday.
“So it is with some regret, but a sense of absolute urgency that I need to announce that elective surgery other than for Category 1 and the most urgent Category 2 patients will be suspended forthwith,” he said.
“We will do our level best to honour those booked surgeries, so scheduled surgeries, but that will not run for very long. If you’re outside the most urgent of Category 2 or in Category 3 – although very little Category 3 surgery is being undertaken at the moment – then we will attempt to have your surgery done, but very soon, all of that surgery will stop.”
media_cameraThere is a lengthy wait to be tested at the Chadstone pop-up.
Eastern Health and the Eye and Ear Hospital are closing beds and then staff will be moved into aged care to provide care and take over the clinical care of residents.
Only the most urgent elective surgery patients will be treated.
“It’s about having staff who are able to provide care and support to the most vulnerable residents in and coming out of private sector aged care,” Mr Andrews said.
Despite some elective surgeries being paused the government have made some compassionate exceptions.
This includes IVF treatments such as egg retrievals.
CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAKS BY NUMBERS
88 cases – Estia Aged care, Ardeer
86 cases – St Basil’s Home for the Age, Fawkner
82 cases – Epping Gardens, Epping
76 cases – Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes, Kilsyth
62 cases – Menarock Life Aged Care, Essendon
53 cases – Glendale Aged Care
50 cases – Estia Aged Care, Heidelberg
40 cases – Outlook Gardens Aged Care, Dandenong North
99 cases – Somerville Retail, Tottenham
89 cases – Bertocchi Smallgoods, Thomastown
76 cases – JBS Australia, Brooklyn
50 cases – Australian Lamb Company, Colac
29 cases – Woolworths Distribution Centre in Mulgrave
27 cases – LaManna Supermarket in Essendon Fields
19 cases – Respite Services Australia in Moonee Ponds
1 4 cases – Linfox Warehouse in Truganina
10 cases – Don KR Castlemaine
10 cases – Aruma Disability Services in Pascoe Vale
5 cases – Laverton Cold Storage in Truganina
PUBLIC HOUSING OUTBREAKS
306 cases linked to North Melbourne and Flemington towers
66 cases linked to the Carlton towers
AGED CARE HOMES EVACUATED
On Monday residents were evacuated from Epping Gardens Aged Care, after similar moves at St Basil’s in Fawkner and Menarock Life Aged Care in Essendon.
Defence Force medics were also sent into the virus-hit Epping Gardens home about 11pm on Monday.
Distressed family members spent the morning queuing outside Epping Gardens in search of answers over their loved ones, as patient transport vehicles arrived at the facility to remove sick residents.
Half a dozen residents were transferred from the nursing home on Tuesday morning.
The home has 77 active coronavirus cases.
The daughter of a COVID-19 infected resident had been unable to reach her mum and went to the facility to confirm she was still on site.
media_cameraMembers of the ADF arrive at Epping Gardens nursing home which has been hit with a large COVID-19 outbreak. Picture: David Croslingmedia_cameraAn elderly Epping Gardens resident is wheeled out by Paramedics to be transported by ambulance. Picture: David Caird
It is believed a commonwealth takeover of St Basil’s is not yet complete and a special adviser is yet to be appointed.
Concerns have also been raised about the lack of experience of staff sent in as part of the takeover.
“If this was an animal facility the RSPCA would have shut it down by now,” a senior government source said.
The Herald Sun has been told of patients not being fed and poor PPE usage by staff. A lack of leadership and neglect have been raised as issues of concern at homes. Aged-care homes have had to call in casual staff from interstate due to so many workers being sick or forced into isolation.
The aged-care crisis has sparked tensions between Victoria and the federal government, which is the primary regulator and funder.
Nurses from South Australia are now being deployed to Victoria to help out, with the federal government also seeking to co-ordinate support from other states.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was also pushing for aged care residents who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 to be transferred to hospitals where it was appropriate.
“That is a very important part of the plan that’s being implemented to relieve the stress on those facilities,” he said.
The Prime Minister described communication breakdowns with the families of aged care residents as “terribly heartbreaking”.
media_cameraA man wearing a face mask walks past members of the Australian Defence Force at Spencer St station. Picture: GettyRESIDENTS ‘DYING FROM NEGLECT’
A mother with Alzheimer’s inside the virus-stricken St Basil’s aged-care facility has been bed-bound for 10 days without a shower or proper food, water and administering of medication, according to her son-in-law.
“And she’s one of the lucky ones because she’s still alive,” Jack Karikas said.
The Essendon man was one of many frantic people who gathered outside the Fawkner aged-care facility on Sunday demanding to know if their loved ones were still alive.
And the situation got so desperate Mr Karikas and his wife Helen brushed past the sole staffer and went to the window where his mother-in-law Vicky Patsakos was behind.
“She was unresponsive, just laying there on the bed,” Mr Karikas said.
“We started banging on the window and took our face masks off so she could recognise us, and she started motioning for water.
“These residents aren’t dying from coronavirus, they’re dying from neglect.”
Read the full story
– Anthony Piovesan
JBS WORKERS FEAR FOR SAFETY
A GROUP of up to 45 workers who refused to start their morning shift JBS in Brooklyn over coronavirus safety fears have returned to work after negotiating for separation between shifts.
The site has been the centre of a coronavirus outbreak, with 71 cases linked to the outbreak so far.
It had been closed for two weeks for deep cleaning but cold storage workers due to go back early Tuesday morning refused to enter the site over fears safety issues had not been addressed.
The United Workers Union complained the company had not communicated its coronavirus safety plan to the returning workers and little to no extra measures had been put in place.
Of chief concern was the sharing of facilities between the morning and afternoon shifts because up to 100 workers could be sharing an enclosed space at one time.
media_cameraJBS staff refused to work on site on Tuesday. Picture: Wayne Taylor
After negotiations with JBS, staff returned to work for a safety induction and with new rules in place.
“After workers ceased work this morning, JBS senior management, workers, health safety representatives and United Workers Union had a constructive meeting,” a UWU spokesman said.
“The company has now agreed to a 30 minute separation between shifts, so workers are not forced into a confined space during change over, and agreed to give workers a safety briefing before they start.
“They have also provided workers with clear details on cleaning regimes for all high touch areas, the laundering of shared equipment, and on the provision of PPE. Because of these changes, workers have now returned to work.”
Meatworks and related industries have become a major contributor to outbreaks in Melbourne, with large clusters at Cedar Meats in Brooklyn and Australian Lamb Company in Colac.
– Kieran Rooney
CALL FOR ROYAL COMMISSION
AMA Victoria president Associate Professor Julian Rait said a royal commission was needed. He said the government’s inquiry into the COVID-19 hotel program did not go far enough or have the judicial powers to uncover wider problems.
“We need a royal commission into the response,” he said.
A royal commission into aged care is examining many of the funding and investment issues now being blamed for contributing to COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes.
Leading Age Services Australia acting chief adviser Tim Hicks joined calls for a wide-ranging inquiry.
“An in-depth inquiry into the Melbourne and Victorian outbreaks is absolutely needed,” he said. “This is an absolute disaster.”
Aged and Community Services Australia chief Patricia Sparrow said concerns remained about the supply of PPE to aged-care homes.
media_cameraStaff arrive in protective clothing. Picture: David Caird
She said a blanket policy was needed to ensure residents who tested positive for COVID-19 were transferred to hospital.
It is believed the federal government is concerned about the current case-by-case policy of transferring residents to hospital.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backed the aged care royal commission to investigate the “very concerning” coronavirus crisis now unfolding in Victorian facilities.
“The aged care royal commission is already looking at issues relating to COVID in terms of what occurred in New South Wales,” the Prime Minister said on Tuesday morning.
“I would expect them to look at what has occurred in Victoria as well.”
Mr Morrison, who is cutting short a trip to Queensland to deal with the situation in Victoria, said about 80 homes out of the state’s network of 430 facilities had been impacted by COVID-19.
Widespread community transmission has seen large parts of the aged care workforce stood down, which Mr Morrison said was a “very significant disruption to the provision of care in those facilities”.
The aged-care royal commission will hold a week of hearings next month on the implications of COVID-19.
MACCAS RUN COSTS TRIO NEARLY $5000
A group of seven revellers renting a CBD apartment who told police they were staying for two nights “so they could party” are among the Victorians slapped with coronavirus fines.
Victoria Police fined a total of 79 people for breaching stay at home directives in the past 24 hours.
Another trio with a hankering for fast food were pulled over by diligent police officers and questioned about their movements.
“They told police they’d been hanging out at someone’s house and were going to McDonald’s to get food,” police spokeswoman Amelia Penhall said.
The failed Maccas run will cost the trio close to $5000 in fines.
Of those who were fined were 23 people who failed to wear a mask or face covering when out in public.
Operation Sentinel continues.
– Brianna Travers
LEGAL LOOPHOLE ALLOWS EXERCISE
Authorities have revealed they can do nothing to stop infected Victorians roaming the streets of Melbourne because of a legal loophole.
The state’s chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton was asked whether infected Victorians in quarantine can leave their home for exercise.
It turns out, they can thanks to the Victorian Charter of human rights and responsibilities.
“Otherwise it is detention and we do not have detention for cases in Victoria,” Dr Sutton said. “They are entitled to exercise within their home and their garden, ideally. People who have no garden and have no other option and they have a right to exercise.
“So the Victorian Charter of human rights and responsibilities is clear that if you are not giving people an option to exercise than you are effectively putting them in prison and that is not something that can be done for a case of coronavirus or for anyone else for that matter.”
media_cameraVictorians spending time Treasury Gardens. Picture: Ian Currie‘BUNNINGS KAREN’ EXPOSED AS NEIGHBOUR FROM HELL
The woman nicknamed “Bunnings Karen” says she will sue police after being “assaulted” during her anti-mask tirade at one of the hardware chain’s stores in Melbourne.
Kerry Nash took to social media, claiming she plans to sue police over their treatment of her.
Under the false name Quincy Adams, she claimed she had been checked over by doctors after the incident in which she was “assaulted”.
It comes as Bunnings managing director Mike Schneider spoke out against mask-shunning conspiracy theorists, labelling recent incidents “disappointing”.
“Anti-maskers” have sparked a national storm on social media, with self-proclaimed exorcist and pagan minister Lizzy Rose also at the centre of another Bunnings protest.
Read the full story here.
A frustrated Premier Dan Andrews has slammed anti-mask conspiracy theorists including the Bunnings Karen whose actions went viral.
COVID-19 FORCES MORE SCHOOL CLOSURES
Kardinia International College in Geelong, which has almost 2000 students, is one of a handful of schools to shut its doors on Tuesday because of coronavirus.
In a post on Monday night, the school didn’t confirm there was a positive case, but said it closed because of a potential case and would notify parents on Tuesday afternoon if further action was required.
Meanwhile, Epping Secondary College has three students who have tested positive for the virus.
In a message to students, seen by the Herald Sun, the school urges anyone with any questions about the situation to contact the COVID-19 hotline.
The school will remain closed on Tuesday.
Footscray High School will close its Kinnear Campus until Thursday after a positive case was reported.
In a message to parents, the school said all students were asked to stay home until further advice was provided.
“Remote learning will not be provided for VCE/VCAL today (Tuesday), this includes students who are in Year 10 studying a VCE/VET subject,” the statement said.
media_cameraMasks have been mandatory in Melbourne for nearly a week. Picture: Ian Currie
Auburn High School in Hawthorn East has also closed on Tuesday, and Cheltenham Secondary College in Melbourne’s southeast will remain shut for a second day.
Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said the alarming rate of school closures was producing “a new level of anxiety”.
“This is a new level of anxiety that had not been anticipated,” she told 3AW.
“Over 50 secondary schools closed, one school has even shut three times and another was told to reopen today but overnight told contact tracing hasn‘t yet happened. The anxiety level is extreme.”
OUTBREAK IN BABY ICU WARD
One of Victoria’s most fragile babies is among the state’s latest COVID-19 patients.
A tiny newborn, already battling serious health conditions in the Royal Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit, was infected by an unwitting parent of another child.
The RCH tested all other babies in the NICU and they have all come back negative.
The Herald Sun understands the infected baby has not yet developed COVID-19 symptoms since testing positive overnight on Sunday.
The infected baby continues to receive extensive medical care in the specialist intensive care unit.
An RCH spokeswoman said bed numbers in its NICU had been reduced to enable all patients to have individual rooms in an effort to limit any further spread.
media_cameraThe Royal Children’s Hospital’s NICU ward has been hit by coronavirus. Picture: Getty
“We are working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure contact tracing is completed and all individuals are supported throughout the process,” the RCH spokeswoman said.
“As the RCH has sufficient numbers of trained intensive-care staff, patient care for our most vulnerable patients will not be compromised.”
It is understood the father of another fragile infant visited his child in the NICU on July 12, while not displaying any COVID-19 symptoms. When the man began having symptoms days later he had a coronavirus test, and the hospital was immediately notified.
Another parent, who was visiting their baby in the same room on July 12, was identified as a close contact and ordered to isolate without being able to again visit the NICU.
At the weekend, in the final days of their isolation, the parent of the second baby also tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the RCH to test their baby despite it not showing any symptoms of the virus.
media_cameraMembers of the Australian Defence Force walk through the city on Monday. Picture: Getty
The infant was also found to be positive for coronavirus on Sunday night, though the patient and parent remained asymptomatic.
All babies in the NICU have been tested, while any parents who have spent more than two hours on Butterfly Ward since July 12 will have testing available.
To complicate the contact tracing, a healthcare worker from the NICU unit was also found to be coronavirus-positive on Saturday, although it is now believed they caught the virus outside the hospital and the case is in no way connected to the families outbreak.
However, because the staff member worked on July 16 and shared a break with colleagues, four other NICU staff have now been placed in isolation.
To limit the chances of COVID-19 outbreaks in the highly sensitive setting, the RCH has limited hospital visitors since March.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT VICTORIA’S AGED CARE CORONAVIRUS CHAOS
VIC AGED-CARE HOMES LEFT TO RELY ON FEDERAL PPE STOCKS
THE VICTORIAN CORONAVIRUS VICTIMS MOURNED AND MISSED