ADF sent to outbreak-hit aged care home in Geelong after one death, 23 positive cases

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Australian Defence Force nurses have been sent to an aged care home in the regional Victorian city of Geelong in response to a coronavirus outbreak which has already claimed one life.

The Opal South Valley home, in the suburb of Highton, has seen 18 residents and five staff test positive to coronavirus.

One resident, who had been receiving care at Barwon Health University Hospital since Tuesday, died on Friday as a result of COVID-19, Opal confirmed in a statement.

“They will be dearly missed. We would like to extend our sympathies to the family, and our thanks to the hospital team and our Opal team for their dedicated care,” the statement said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made special mention of the need to keep coronavirus out of aged care homes in regional Victoria, during Sunday’s lengthy press conference where he announced all of regional Victoria would be put under stage three restrictions.

“I’m not going to let this get into aged care in regional Victoria the way that it has into aged care in Melbourne,” he said.

Many aged care homes in the more remote parts of the state are government-run facilities.

Today, 10 enrolled nurses and one registered nurse from the Australian Defence Force arrived at Opal South Valley, a private aged care home, to look after residents.

The home is also receiving support from the local public health provider, Barwon Health, and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

“As a precaution, and to ensure that we have taken every possible measure to protect our residents and team, the majority of our Opal team at South Valley are self-isolating,” the Opal statement said.

“Opal leadership continue to manage the home with a number of senior Opal team on site, including clinicians, carers and an Opal chef. We are working closely with the DHHS and with Barwon Health who is providing excellent clinical support.”

Residents’ relatives are being phoned daily to keep them informed about their loved one’s care.

Opal said their team was “truly heartened” by the community’s support.

“We thank the Geelong community for their ongoing support, it uplifts and energises our team every day.”

Victoria’s aged care outbreak exceeds 1,000 active cases

There are more than 1,000 active coronavirus cases and dozens of deaths linked to aged care home outbreaks, which have so far been concentrated in Melbourne.

At least two homes — Menarock Life aged care home in Essendon and St Basil’s in Fawkner — have had all residents evacuated as out-of-control outbreaks sent entire staffing teams into quarantine.

An ambulance pulls out of the driveway of St Basil's aged care home.
Ambulances were used to evacuate residents from St Basil’s aged care home in Fawkner, in Melbourne’s north, last week.(ABC News)

Australian Defence Force medics and AUSMAT teams, who are usually sent to overseas disasters, have been brought in to work alongside Victorian hospital nurses to contain outbreaks at several homes.

Some residents and their families have voiced concern about poor infection control procedures including inappropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) which could result in contamination.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission wrote to all aged care service providers on Friday reminding them of their responsibility to ensure all staff had been properly trained in how to use gloves, face masks, face shields and gowns.

The commission will begin unannounced checks of services to observe infection control practices, with a focus on aged care homes in Melbourne.

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