Aged care residents set for jab after staffer’s ‘mystery’ case
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Residents and staff at a Melbourne aged care facility will be encouraged to accept a dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday after a staff member at the centre tested positive to COVID-19.
The infection of the staff member of the Arcare home in Maidstone came even though the woman had been given her first vaccine shot on May 12. About two-thirds of the residents were given their first dose at the same time, but some refused to be inoculated.
Almost a third of residents at the Arcare Maidstone aged care facility have not consented to being vaccinated.Credit:Scott McNaughton
Victorian COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar said the Arcare case was one of “extreme concern” as it was not yet known how the staff member caught the virus. “We don’t have an acquisition source,” he said on Sunday.
Aged care facilities were, Mr Weimar said, “the most vulnerable and sensitive setting that we have”. COVID infections in nursing homes carry particular fear in Victoria, where 655 people died in aged care in last year’s second wave.
The Arcare infection is the first mystery case of Victoria’s latest outbreak, which has plunged the state into a seven-day snap lockdown.
The granddaughter of an 86-year-old resident of the home said the federal government could have done more to encourage residents to get vaccinated and told them of the risks of not doing so.
Arcare Maidstone resident Ann Lim, 86, and her granddaughter, Ai-Lin Chang
“We were very much left up to our own devices in terms of making those decisions,” said Ai-Lin Chang.
Ms Chang said she was “underwhelmed” by how late in the national rollout her grandmother, Ann Lim, was vaccinated. Ms Lim got her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on May 12.
On Sunday federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said 53 of the 76 residents at the home had agreed to be vaccinated and would receive their second doses on Monday.
Mr Hunt said that nationally about 15 per cent of people in aged care have declined a vaccination when offered.
Ms Lim celebrating her 86th birthday in March.
Mr Singh said that all Arcare Maidstone staff and residents would be tested for COVID-19 on Sunday, and would be tested again on Tuesday.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation accused the federal government of failing to protect vulnerable aged care residents and their “dedicated” nurses and care workers.
The federation called on the government “to act urgently and with transparency – like it is a matter of life or death”, to spell out numbers, not percentages, of aged care staff and residents nationally who have had one or two doses of vaccinations, or who had had none.
The federation called for the government to “immediately organise in-reach teams to finalise vaccination of residents and staff”.
Arcare confirmed nursing federation figures that about 34 of the 110 eligible staff at Arcare Maidstone had received a first vaccination, including the worker with COVID-19, and that 53 of the residents had received their first vaccination dose.
Mr Singh said that the facility would let residents’ families know if any more positive cases had been identified.
Ms Chang said she was “stunned” when given the news in a phone call after 10pm from Arcare Maidstone on Saturday.
“I guess you never think it’s going to happen to you but it was a very unexpected late-night phone call, that’s for sure,” Ms Chang said.
Ms Chang, 26, of Yarraville, said she was raised by Ms Lim, who now has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease. Ms Chang visits Ms Lim twice a week, but couldn’t on the weekend due to the state lockdown.
“There’s definitely a huge sense of helplessness, because there’s not much in your capacity, that you realistically can do at this point in time, but the worry’s still there,” Ms Chang said.
On Sunday Ms Chang was “still stunned, and nervous, of course, very helpless as a family member, because you have to put all your trust into the aged care sector and all the other government entities to do the right thing, or provide the best response they possibly can”.
“But the thing I guess what’s so uncertain is that there’s so many cracks, always, in the armour, in the defence shield that we’re not aware of, because we don’t know enough about COVID yet.
“You hope everyone’s doing their best with the absolute best knowledge they have but there’s a sense of uncertainty.”
Ms Chang did not want to criticise Arcare Maidstone, where Ms Lim has lived since October. “I actually think they do a wonderful job,” she said.
”I can’t speak highly enough about the staff. They provide great care. My grandma has pretty progressed Alzheimer’s and they’re able to meet her needs time and time again.”
She could not wait to visit again. “Having that face to face contact is incredibly important, because that’s how she’s connected to life and to experience love. We watch TV, we hug and sometimes we read the papers together.”
Mr Weimar said the Arcare Maidstone staffer immediately reported COVID-19 symptoms on Friday and it’s believed there was potential for her to have been infectious on Wednesday and Thursday.
Anyone with connections to Arcare on those days should contact the government immediately, isolate and get tested, he said.
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