An aged care facility operator in the throes of a Covid-19 outbreak lost a resident’s consent form to be vaccinated, leaving her vulnerable after two workers and another resident tested positive at the site, according to the family of the inhabitant.
E-mails exchanged between the center and the resident’s family also show that on May 6 there were no plans to vaccinate staff until later this year, despite repeated promises from the federal government that it was prioritizing vaccination. of the industry.
Nataša Ciabatti gave permission earlier this year to have her 87-year-old grandmother vaccinated at Arcare Maidstone. She reaffirmed that consent on May 6 when staff sent an email to residents’ families about the impending vaccination program.
Alarmed last Thursday by the gradual increase in the number of cases in Victoria, she emailed the manager asking if her grandmother had been vaccinated on May 12 as planned.
The manager replied that she hadn’t, as she hadn’t agreed – despite admitting that she had only agreed three weeks before. The manager apologized in a later email, saying that Ciabatti’s grandmother could be vaccinated “in the near future.”
But on Saturday, an employee at the facility tested positive, and another employee and a resident tested positive on Sunday, leaving Ciabatti deeply concerned for her grandmother’s fate.
The Covid-19 outbreak that swept through Victorian aged care facilities last year largely spared the center, but Ciabatti said it still had a clear impact on her grandmother.
Ciabatti visits her grandmother regularly, but cannot speak to her by phone because she has dementia.
“She got dementia, but it was okay,” Ciabatti said.
“But because of [last year’s] lockdown she didn’t see anyone for a long time, because she was alone in a room, and it got worse. It’s like she lost five years of her life in that time.
“She doesn’t answer the phone. So I guess she’s alone in her room now and going crazy.’
On Sunday, Ciabatti reacted in disbelief to an email from Arcare with news of the first positive case.
“This is unfortunate, but it also happens mainly because the staff has not yet been vaccinated?!? How is that possible?” she wrote to Arcare.
“I was able to get AstraZeneca from the mass vaccination center a month ago because this situation was to be expected. It’s winter and some aged care workers and residents haven’t received the vaccine yet? And those who did get it, didn’t get it until last week, right!?
“I can’t believe it to be honest! Hopefully no one gets sick…”
She later received confirmation that her grandmother would be vaccinated today.
But the center or Victorian health officials had not contacted Ciabatti by 11 a.m. Monday, despite news that there were more positive cases at home and the center was last visited on Wednesday. The first employee who tested positive worked in the center on Wednesday and Thursday.
Later on Monday morning, Ciabatti received an update confirming the positive cases and clarifying that parts of the center had been declared Level 1 exposure sites and that the entire center was classified as Level 2.
“We would like to reassure all families and friends of Arcare Maidstone that our thoughts are with them at this difficult time and we will keep them updated with regular updates on the situation,” Arcare said in a media statement on Monday.
It confirmed that 53 of the center’s 76 residents had given “consent” to be vaccinated, but it’s 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 employees would receive their first or second dose on Monday.
But emails sent from the manager to Ciabatti on May 6 indicate that there was no plan to have Arcare staff vaccinated on May 12. The manager said there was a plan to vaccinate the 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 could not provide an update on how many residents and staff had now been vaccinated.
He said there was no indication that other residents’ consent forms had been lost, and 53 residents who had previously consented would receive a second dose on Monday.
Singh did not comment on the manager’s suggestion that there was not a plan to vaccinate staff until later in the year until May 6, nor did he elaborate on what he meant by saying staff had been “limited” recently. to work between facilities.
Victoria’s Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said on Sunday that about a third of the facility’s staff had been vaccinated, but it is unclear whether they had been vaccinated independently of their employer.
The second Maidstone staff member to test positive had not been vaccinated and also worked at a second retirement home, Bluecross in Sunshine.
On Monday, Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Victorian authorities have been open to vaccinating aged care staff for the past three weeks.