For those who’ve followed Sydney’s Newmarch House Covid-19 infections, last night’s ABC Four Corners made for compelling viewing.
At Newmarch House over a period of 39 days, 34 staff and 37 residents became infected with Covid 19. There were 19 deaths of residents.
When we researched Newmarch House intensively for Issue 04 of the Good Grief! Newsletter we were assured that ‘hospital in the home’ was being carried out so well at Newmarch House that there was no need to transfer any Covid-19 patients to a major hospital with an intensive care unit.
But Louise Payne, who managed to transfer her mother to Nepean Hospital late in the progression of the crisis, told Four Corners that her mother immediately responded to higher levels of nursing care, was treated for her pneumonia with intravenous antibiotics and immediately started recovering.
She and other family members told Four Corners they didn’t believe the ill Newmarch House residents had access to the tests and ICU equipment that can be found in a major hospital.
It will be interesting to see this problem reviewed in the two enquiries, slated to look at Newmarch House, one a NSW Coroner’s inquiry, the other the Royal Commission into Aged Care’s inquiry.
The public had also been reassured that some residents did not want to be moved and this followed the wishes of their advance care directive.
But it’s hard to imagine advance care planning that could foresee the Covid-19 pandemic.
And as it turns out, Nicole Fahey, the granddaughter of Anne Fahey, one 76-year-old resident who died, said her in her grandmother’s advance care planning, she’d requested active treatment to keep her alive in the face of serious illness.
Another troubling issue exposed in the Four Corners report was that Covid-19 positive patients resided in their rooms, beside rooms where Covid-19 negative residents were housed, for several weeks.
Imagine the psychological stress of knowing that, of “sitting there waiting to die,” as one family member described it.
And these are just some of the issues Four Corners raised. Others were around basic nursing, the ability of the staff to manage infection control, the psychological impacts of the way the residents’ lockdown was managed, the access of families to residents, and communication with families.
It is likely Covid-19 will be around, in small clusters for a while. It’s just as easy for an infection to occur in a nursing home now as it was in April when the Newmarch House events were unfolding.
So, we have to learn how to do better. And we have to remember that being elderly alone is not a good enough reason to apply a lesser standard of medical care.
“If this happened to young people there would be screaming in the streets,” Mary Watson, told Four Corners. Her mother Alice Bacon died in the Newmarch House outbreak.
To follow the Four Corners report No Way In, No Way Out, by Anne Connelly, go to:
For more on the Covid-19 outbreak at Newmarch House and the issues it raised, go to: