Report into COVID-19 outbreaks at St Basil’s and Epping Gardens

The Australian Government has released the findings of the independent review into COVID-19 outbreaks at two Victorian aged care facilities: Heritage Care’s Epping Gardens and St Basil’s Home for the Aged.

 

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said the report underlined the critical elements that led to the tragic outbreaks at the height of the second wave of community transmission across Melbourne following the Victorian Hotel Quarantine failures as outlined in the Inquiry.

 

Forty-five residents at St Basil’s Home for the Aged and 38 residents at Heritage Care’s Epping Gardens died.

 

Both St Basil’s Home for the Aged and Heritage Care’s Epping Gardens remain subject to a Notice to Agree (NTA) issued by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

 

A Notice to Agree is a serious enforcement measure which, if ignored, can lead to the approval to provide Australian Government subsidies being revoked, and comes at a cost to the provider.

 

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Mr Colbeck said establishing the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (VACRC) and significant actions by the Commonwealth Government to support providers to respond to emergency event in aged care is acknowledged in this report.

 

At the height of the second wave in Victoria, advice from the VACRC, is that there were more than 7,000 aged care staff furloughed who had either contracted COVID-19 or were close contacts.

 

During the outbreak, according to VACRC data, more than 36,000 shifts were filled by replacement staff.

 

“The coordinating role of the VACRC was found to be a major driver in facilitating effective interagency communications,” Mr Colbeck said.

 

On 21 August 2020, National Cabinet endorsed the Commonwealth, State and Territory Plan to Boost Aged Care Preparedness for a Rapid Emergency Response to COVID-19.

 

A key component of the plan is the establishment of Aged Care Emergency Response Operations Centres. Within each jurisdictions’ public health response structure, a dedicated aged care emergency response team has been established and key personnel identified at the state and Commonwealth level.

 

“All jurisdictions have provided assurances that their Aged Care Emergency Response Centres can be stood up within 48 hours,” Mr Colbeck said.

 

The Australian Government is working with the states, the aged care sector, and public health authorities, to adapt and refine the approach to outbreaks in six key areas, Leadership and management, Communication, Emergency planning and preparation, Infection prevention and control capacity and capability, Pathology testing and Surge workforce.

 

Every age care provider and facility leader in Australia should read this report – it is a powerful additional source of advice and information.

 

The report on the independent reviews of COVID-19 outbreaks at Heritage Care’s Epping Gardens and St Basil’s Home for the Aged can be found at https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-independent-review-of-covid-19-outbreaks-at-st-basils-and-epping-gardens-aged-care-facilities

 

The release of the report may be confronting for anyone affected by the impact of the pandemic on Australia’s aged care sector. The following support is available:

  • The Older Persons Advocacy Network can be reached on 1800 700 600
  • The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement can be reached on 1800 22 22 00
  • The Essential Network for health professionals– a website and mobile application by the Black Dog Institute available at blackdoginstitute.org.au/ten or via the Google Play and Apple Store
  • Smiling Mind – a mobile application which offers practical tools to support good mental health during challenging times available via the Google Play and Apple Store.

Aged care workers can also access mental health supports available to all Australians including:

  • Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service which can be reached on 1800 512 348 or at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au.
  • Lifeline which can be reached on 13 11 14
  • Head to Health - provides access to free and low cost digital and phone mental health services and supports, available at headtohealth.gov.au

 

22 December 2020.