COVID-19 cases at aged care homes in WA have tripled in the past two months

COVID-19 cases at aged care homes in WA have tripled in the past two months
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The public is being urged to “do the right thing” as COVID-19 case numbers at aged care homes surge with a new wave of the virus sweeping Australia. 

Key points:

  • Case numbers among WA care home residents has tripled in the past two months
  • The number of cases across Australia had also surged to more than 2,100 last week
  • The CEO of an aged care association says staff shortages are worsening as a result

The number of COVID-19 cases at aged care homes in Western Australia has tripled since September. 

There were 322 cases of the virus at WA care homes last week — more than triple the 100 cases recorded two months earlier.  

Figures from the Department of Health and Aged Care also show 54 WA facilities had outbreaks, compared with 25 around the same time in September, and the number of cases in aged care staff has also doubled over the same period.  

The spike in aged care home outbreaks follows a national trend that has seen the number of cases among residents across Australia jump from 960 in September to 2,155 last week.   

Capacity to deal with outbreaks

Tom Symondson, chief executive of the Aged and Community Care Providers Association, told ABC Radio Perth that care homes now had the equipment and measures in place to deal with outbreaks when they occurred. 

Tom Symondson, from the Aged and Community Care Providers Association.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Matilda Marozzi)

But he said rising case numbers were still a hit to staffing levels in an industry that was already troubled by workforce shortages.  

“Again, they’ve had to get really used to this, they’ve had to become really creative,” Mr Symondson said.  

“We’d rather we didn’t have to be, but we are managing it to the best of our abilities but, you know, you can’t pretend it’s not a problem because it is.” 

He said inconsistencies in the requirements for aged care homes in different states and territories were also problematic for the management of nursing homes.  

With no state-imposed COVID rules for aged care homes in WA, only guidance, Mr Symondson said nursing homes carried the burden of enforcing policies on mask-wearing and RAT-testing to protect their residents.  

“The other thing that we’ve got to really push for is the community doing the right thing,” he said.  

“It may feel like COVID is a horrible distant memory to people in the community, but it is not so for us in aged care.” 

Personal impact still real

Chloe Harris-Brown said she had not been able to visit her mother-in-law since March due to care-home restrictions that limit the number of visitors to two people at a time.  

With a two-year-old daughter and her mother-in-law in a wheelchair, she said the logistics were too difficult. 

“When you’ve got someone who is demented, to the point that they can’t follow instructions anymore, and you have a toddler, trying to manage a wheelchair and a small person … that has made visiting basically impossible,” she said. 

“Because I can’t manage without my partner there.” 

Ms Harris-Brown said she still wore a mask in public places because she was concerned about contracting the virus and passing it on. 

“I’m trying to protect the ability for at least my mother-in-law to have some sort of visit from her son, even if we don’t get to see her from a practicality point of view,” she said.  

“People will make comments to me, or they’ll make smart sort of jokes [about the mask].  

“And I’m like, ‘You know, what? No.’ 

“You may choose to do whatever you do, whatever restrictions there are or aren’t, but please don’t make comments about what I choose to do.” 

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Author: Alicia Bridges

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