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The operator of an aged care facility in the grips of a Covid-19 outbreak lost the consent form of a resident who wanted to be vaccinated, leaving her vulnerable after two workers and another resident tested positive at the site, according to the resident’s family.
Emails exchanged between the centre and the resident’s family also appear to indicate that as recently as 6 May there had been no plans to vaccinate staff until later this year, despite repeated assurances from the federal government that it was prioritising the vaccination of the sector.
Nataša Ciabatti provided consent for her 87-year-old grandmother to be vaccinated at Arcare Maidstone earlier this year. She confirmed that consent again on 6 May when staff sent an email to the families of residents about the impending vaccination program.
When she became alarmed at the gradual increase in cases across Victoria last Thursday, she sent an email to the manager asking if her grandmother had been vaccinated as planned on 12 May.
The manager replied that she hadn’t been, because she had not consented – despite acknowledging she had consented only three weeks earlier. The manager apologised in a later email and said Ciabatti’s grandmother could be vaccinated “in the near future”.
But on Saturday a worker at the facility tested positive, and another worker and a resident tested positive on Sunday, leaving Ciabatti deeply fearful about the fate of her grandmother.
The Covid-19 outbreak that ripped through Victorian aged care facilities last year largely spared the centre, but Ciabatti said it still had a marked impact on her grandmother.
Ciabatti visits her grandmother regularly but cannot speak with her on the phone because she has dementia.
“She went in with dementia but was OK,” Ciabatti said.
“But because of [last year’s] lockdown she didn’t see anyone for a long time, because she was in a room by herself, and she got worse. It’s like she lost five years of her life during that time.
“She doesn’t pick up the phone. So I’m assuming she’s in her room by herself now going mad.”
On Sunday, Ciabatti responded incredulously to an email from Arcare regarding news of the first positive case.
“This is unfortunate but also it is mainly happening because staff have not yet been vaccinated?!? How is that possible?” she wrote to Arcare.
“I was able to get AstraZeneca a month ago at the mass vaccination centre because this situation was expected. It’s winter and some aged care staff and residents haven’t received the vaccine yet? And those who did only got it last week, right!?
“I can’t believe it to be honest! Hopefully nobody gets sick …”
She later received confirmation her grandmother would be vaccinated today.
But Ciabatti had not been contacted again by the centre or Victorian health officials by 11am on Monday, despite news circulating about more positive cases at the home, and last visiting the centre on Wednesday. The first staff member who tested positive worked at the centre on Wednesday and Thursday.
Later on Monday morning, Ciabatti was sent an update confirming the positive cases and clarifying that parts of the centre had been declared tier 1 exposure sites, and the entire centre was classified as tier 2.
“We would like to reassure all families and friends of Arcare Maidstone that our thoughts are with them during this difficult time and we will keep them informed with regular updates on the situation,” Arcare said in a media statement on Monday.
It confirmed that 53 of the 76 residents at the centre had “consented” to being vaccinated, but it is unclear whether all of these residents had been vaccinated, or whether other residents consent forms had been lost.
The aged care provider confirmed that all Maidstone staff would be offered their first or second dose on Monday.
But emails sent from the manager to Ciabatti on 6 May show there had been no plan for Arcare staff to be vaccinated on 12 May. The manager said there was a plan to vaccinate staff “later in the year”.
Arcare chief executive Colin Singh said in a statement to Guardian Australia that Ciabatti’s grandmother had been vaccinated on Monday, but was unable to provide an update on how many residents and staff had now been vaccinated.
He said there was no indication the consent forms of other residents had been lost, and that 53 residents who had previously consented would receive second doses on Monday.
Singh did not comment on the manager’s suggestion that as recently as 6 May there was no plan for staff to be vaccinated until later in the year, nor elaborate on what he meant by saying staff had recently been “limited” from working between facilities.
Victoria’s Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said on Sunday that about a third of the staff at the facility were vaccinated, but it is unclear if they had been vaccinated independent of their employer.
The second Maidstone staff member who tested positive had not been vaccinated and was also working in a second aged care facility, Bluecross in Sunshine.
On Monday, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said Victorian authorities had been open to vaccinating the aged care workforce for the past three weeks.
Source: The Guardian
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