Frail, elderly residents locked in rooms for almost a month following COVID scare

Elderly residents at an aged care facility in northern Victoria have been under strict lockdown orders for almost a month, despite returning negative COVID-19 tests.

Key points:

  • More than 100 elderly residents have spent almost a month locked in their rooms in a Shepparton aged home after a COVID-19 scare
  • 17 confirmed cases were linked to the facility, including a resident, two staff members and 14 close contacts
  • The CEO of the service says communication from the health department has been ‘frustrating’

More than 100 residents at Maculata Place, operated by Shepparton Villages, were forced to self-isolate on August 6, after a staff member tested positive for the virus.

The initial case led to the biggest outbreak the community has seen since the beginning of the pandemic, which included one resident and a second staff member testing positive, as well as 14 close contacts.

All staff and residents underwent three rounds of testing, with no further positive cases confirmed at the facility.

But the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said it would conduct a fourth round of testing, before issuing a clearance.

Shepparton Villages CEO Veronica Jamison said they were ‘frustrated’ by the process and was disappointed the department had not communicated sooner.

“My heart goes out to the residents having to undergo further testing, which would be frustrating and concerning for them,” Ms Jamison said.

CEO says residents are ‘in good spirits’

More than 100 frail and elderly residents at the aged home have not left their rooms in 29 days and have only been able to contact family and friends via Zoom or phone calls.

Despite no further residents or staff testing positive to the virus following multiple tests, the DHHS indicated that because it had only been 11 days since a positive result, further testing was needed.

smiling woman

Shepparton Villages CEO Veronica Jamison said it had been a tough time for residents, who have been isolated in their rooms for almost a month(Supplied: Shepparton Villages)

But Ms Jamison said this had only been communicated to the facility yesterday.

Ms Jamison said most of the residents had remained in good spirits, but that it was a tough time for everyone.

“They are really feeling it and we’ve ensured they’ve remained in touch with their families,” she said.

Ms Jamison said residents and staff would be tested but because some staff lived as far as Seymour and the Border, it could take longer to receive results.

“It could be next week until we get the go ahead to move out of isolation,” she said.

“I hope that’s not the case, but what’s happened in the past has certainly indicated that.”

Month in isolation ‘cruel’, says MP

The facility narrowly avoided what could have been a devastating outbreak, seen right across private facilities in Victoria.

The Independent Member for Shepparton, Suzanna Sheed, said it was ‘lucky’ there had been no further residents or staff test positive.

“I take the view that if expert public health and infectious diseases people believe this lockdown is necessary, then I support that,” Ms Sheed said.

“If they didn’t do it and it turned out there was a positive case there that spread, it would be a disaster.”

But she said mental health issues would very likely surface.

“Even though they are getting excellent care and the staff are doing a fantastic job, there will be consequences – there’s no fresh air, no exercise,” Ms Sheed said.

Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell said needing to undertake a fourth round of testing was “slapdash” and “not taking into account the feelings of people”.

“The residents are isolated from their families and each other, and it’s cruel,” Ms Lovell said.

“The Department should have been onto this from the start, they should’ve been able to tell them how many tests the residents would need to undertake.

DHHS has been contacted for comment.

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