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Nursing home lockouts doing ‘nothing for compassion’, as governments square off with aged care industry


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Nursing home lockouts doing ‘nothing for compassion’, as governments square off with aged care industry

Victorian nursing homes that have issued blanket bans on visitors have been put on notice by Premier Daniel Andrews, as stories emerge of elderly residents dying and suffering while in isolation.Key points:Many aged care centres adopting stricter measures than Federal Government advisesFamilies say they have been unable to visit loved onesVictorian Premier calls for more…

Nursing home lockouts doing ‘nothing for compassion’, as governments square off with aged care industry

Victorian nursing homes that have issued blanket bans on visitors have been put on notice by Premier Daniel Andrews, as stories emerge of elderly residents dying and suffering while in isolation.

Key points:

  • Many aged care centres adopting stricter measures than Federal Government advises
  • Families say they have been unable to visit loved ones
  • Victorian Premier calls for more compassion as virus spread eases

Aged care advocates have said they’ve received reports of some centres conducting full-scale lockdowns, despite the Federal Government’s advice to permit two visitors per day.

Nursing homes around the country have been on high alert since the pandemic started, and the coronavirus death toll from a Western Sydney nursing home has now reached 11.

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Ian Yates from The Council of the Ageing tells Virginia Trioli some residents have been cut off for weeks.
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Mr Andrews acknowledged centres were trying to keep residents safe from coronavirus, but said it was “heartbreaking” some had imposed measures that prevented families from visiting loved ones.

“My message to the private sector is pretty simple: ‘There’s a royal commission into you at the moment, and you’re not doing any favours by locking families out’.”

Access granted after mother died

A large aged care facility surrounded by leafy trees

Regular family visits were stopped at the Broughtonlea centre, where Peter Sneddon’s mother died.(ABC Melbourne: Kristian Silva)

Peter Sneddon said he and his sister were devastated at not being able to see their 97-year-old mother Norma for three weeks, before her death at the Broughtonlea BlueCross Centre in Surrey Hills, in Melbourne’s east.

Even when his mother had a fall and needed hospital treatment, Mr Sneddon said no visiting access was permitted.

After returning from hospital, Mrs Sneddon’s condition deteriorated and she died in the nursing home on Easter Sunday.

“My sister and I were able to go in there when my mother was dead. It didn’t make any difference to them. But we couldn’t go in two days earlier.”

A spokeswoman for BlueCross did not answer specific questions about Mrs Sneddon’s case, but in a statement said: “BlueCross allows visits in special circumstances and on compassionate grounds, i.e. when a resident is palliative”.

Dual heartbreak of terminal diagnosis and lockdown

A middle-aged man and woman with concerned expressions

Meredith Thompson and Adrian Brown want nursing homes to to comply with the Federal Government two-visitor advice.(ABC News: Simon Tucci)

When The Views at Heidelberg nursing home was put into lockdown a month ago, Meredith Thompson feared she would never see her 87-year-old uncle again.

Her uncle, who was recently diagnosed with liver cancer and given three months to live, stays at the facility where only doctors, health workers and staff are permitted inside.

“To be told we can’t visit him at all, and to be told he’s been given a terminal diagnosis is impossible to deal with,” she said.

After pleading with the operators of the centre, Ms Thompson said over the weekend she and her partner were granted bi-weekly visits to the facility.

Ms Thompson and her partner have called on the Federal Government to force aged care centres to abide by its recommendations.

A spokesperson for the nursing home operators, Benetas, said the “extremely difficult” decision to stop family visits was made when the extent of the coronavirus spread was unknown.

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“We are now working towards a softening of these measures, in line with the approaching May 11 review of the Victorian Government’s current Stage 3 restrictions,” the spokeswoman said.

Difficult balance between safety and sensitivity

Patricia Sparrow, the chief executive of peak body Aged and Community Services Australia, backed nursing homes that chose to impose stricter measures than the two-visitor recommendation made by the Federal Government.

She said the sector’s “100 per cent focus was on keeping residents safe and well” and that included facilitating family visits or other forms of contact, such as video calls.

“Providers are making decisions based on what’s happening on the ground,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

Ms Sparrow said visits should be granted when residents were dying or if there were compassionate grounds.

The Council on the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates said the advocacy group urged any families with complaints to contact the aged care watchdog, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

“What we have are families concerned that they have not had any contact at all for weeks,” he said.

Some residents trapped in lockdown cycle

Melbourne renal physician Dr Margaret Fraenkel said some nursing homes were going too far and putting some residents in a cycle of isolation within the facilities themselves.

Dr Fraenkel said some residents who were taken to hospital regularly for kidney dialysis treatment, were put into self-isolation when they returned.

“The nursing homes are saying because they’ve left the facility, they need to be in lockdown for 14 days. Because [the hospital treatment] happens every two days, the 14 days never finishes,” she said.

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