Aged care providers grapple with Omicron

January 23, 2022 BY

The Belmont Residential Aged Care has had 6 recently confirmed COVID cases. Photo: FACEBOOK

AT LEAST 24 aged care residents and staff in the Geelong, Bellarine and Surf Coast region have tested positive to COVID-19 in recent weeks.

No deaths have been reported but operators are warning of worse to come.

“I believe there is now a risk that we will have over half of all the aged care homes in Australia with outbreaks and that number is likely to continue to increase,” Aged & Community Services Australia chief executive officer Paul Sadler said.

Victoria is experiencing its highest rates of COVID infections due to the Omicron wave and local providers are reporting staff shortages, increased workloads, having to prevent residential visits, waiting weeks for critical supplies such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and a lack of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs).

This newspaper sent a series of questions to more than a dozen providers in the region, asking how they were managing the latest COVID outbreak.

Arcare reported four positive cases among residents at its Point Lonsdale home.

Arcare confirmed daily testing of staff at Point Lonsdale and Portarlington, around 20 per cent of which have received a booster, a spokesperson saying it’s confident of meeting the February 12 federal government mandate for all staff to be fully vaccinated.

The spokesperson said aged care overall was becoming overwhelmed with staff on sick leave and the extra workloads in cleaning and RAT testing, and that “understandable” family expectations for residential care of residents were suffering as a result.

Arcare is also having to wait weeks for equipment such as PPE and chemicals, is struggling to source sufficient RATs, and staff testing has been further hampered by the recent closure of testing sites in Geelong and the Surf Coast.

While not responding to this paper’s request for comment, TLC’s Belmont Residential Aged Care home has had five residents and one staff member test positive to COVID.

A Barwon Health spokesperson said two residents at its Alan David Lodge site in Grovedale have COVID, all eligible residents had received their third jab and more than 50 per cent of its staff were
triple vaccinated.

Barwon Health has been able to avoid staff shortages “despite the high number of COVID cases in our community”, the spokesperson said, was providing staff with RATs “as needed” and is now allowing five visitors per resident each day following a negative RAT on entry.

A BUPA spokesperson said three residents at its Barrabool home with COVID were “isolated from other residents in their rooms” and had “very mild symptoms”.

Four staff there have also been infected, as have another five staff at its Bellarine Lakes home, all are reported to be fully vaccinated.

“I feel desperately for residents and staff in aged care facilities in our region,” Corangamite Labor federal member Libby Coker said.

“We’re seeing an almost carbon-copy repeat of Morrison’s COVID nursing home failures of two years ago. The Morrison Government apparently learnt nothing over that time. There’s a lack of PPE gear and other essential resources to deal with the Omicron surge.”

The federal Coalition Government says it has secured more than 80 million RATs for delivery in January and February, and that its vaccine booster program has reached 75 percent of centres, with all expected to be visited by the end of this month.