The head of a Melbourne aged care home has defended a party where residents and staff were filmed partying together without masks, saying it helped to lift spirits.
- The home’s CEO said staff who took part in a dance routine did not wear masks during the performance but put them on afterwards
- Victoria’s Premier said aged care homes would remain high-risk environments for the virus to spread
- Chief Medical Officer Andrew Wilson said PPE fatigue in healthcare workers was “a complicated issue”
A video shared on social media platform TikTok shows aged care staff from AdventCare Whitehorse in Nunawading dancing together without wearing any personal protective equipment (PPE).
According to comments on the post, the party was held for a manager.
Under Melbourne’s stage 4 restrictions, everyone must wear a face covering when they leave home.
Face masks and face shields or eye goggles must be worn by all staff and workers in aged care homes.
Aged care residents are allowed to nominate one visitor to provide emotional and social support who can visit once a day for an hour. Visitors must wear a mask and maintain physical distancing.
Of the 763 deaths from COVID-19 in Victoria, 596 have been linked to aged care facilities.
In a statement, chief executive of AdventCare David Reece said residents “were treated to a special High Tea in their home by the staff” last Wednesday.
“This was a source of great enjoyment for the residents and helped to lift their spirits at this time,” he said.
“As part of the afternoon activity, a few of the staff put on a brief dance routine for the residents, who were seated at their tables.
“AdventCare maintains appropriate use of PPE at all times and all staff wore masks at the afternoon tea. During the brief dance routine the dancers did not wear masks, but they put them back on as soon as they had finished.”
Mr Reece said the home provided “a comprehensive program of activities organised and run by the staff, which are designed to support the physical and mental wellbeing of our residents who are living safely in their home”.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he was not in a position to “quarrel with the CEO” of the facility.
“I have seen comments from him talking about the fact that it was a closed event and only people who lived there and work there were involved,” Mr Andrews said.
“Frankly staff do not live there, they live in the community and we have community transmission so I do not know that is the best rebuttal or defence.
“We all have to be vigilant and aged care is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a high-risk environment.”
Chief Medical Officer Andrew Wilson said staff becoming fatigued from wearing PPE on long shifts was a “really complicated issue”.
“People have to really keep their guard up and that’s hard and we’re working with behavioural insight groups and other groups trying to develop plans to try and help people,” he said.
“When I’m wearing PPE, I’m often reminding myself not to touch my face. It’s really hard to keep your guard up all the time.”
He said authorities were aware of cases where PPE fatigue or lapses had contributed to outbreaks.