Tasmanian nursing home deaths to be investigated

Latrobe’s Strathdevon aged-care facility
Latrobe’s Strathdevon aged-care facility

The deaths of six elderly people in Latrobe’s Strathdevon aged-care facility will be reviewed by the Australian aged-care quality agency.

Federal aged-care minister Ken Wyatt has confirmed the cluster of deaths will be subject to an investigation to ensure that all infection control procedures were followed.

“Older people are always vulnerable to the flu, but the many deaths this year are unacceptable,” he said.

“I have instructed the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency to conduct an urgent audit of the Strathdevon aged care facilities to review their infection control procedures and for the Quality Agency to look into the management of infectious diseases outbreak procedures, including vaccinations of staff and residents, as it visits at all aged care services across Australia including through the unannounced visit program.”

The North-West aged-care facility is run by Uniting AgeWell, which said there was an Influenza A outbreak from August 9 to 16, which was cleared on August 30.

“All precautions to prevent an outbreak ahead of the flu season were taken, with 95 per cent of Strathdevon’s 37 residents receiving a flu vaccination,” a statement from Uniting AgeWell said.

All staff were also offered a free vaccine which saw “a large number” immunised.

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Despite the precautions, 31 of the residents were affected during the outbreak period, with nine residents admitted to hospital for further treatment.

“All health, hygiene and safety precautions were taken to minimise the spread of infection during the outbreak, including the use of personal protective equipment, isolation of residents, restriction of visitors and unwell staff instructed to remain at home,” the statement said.

The six who died all had underlying conditions, according to the aged-care provider.

Meanwhile federal health minister Greg Hunt has requested Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, investigate ways to ensure all aged care workers are properly vaccinated against flu. 

“I will work with the medical authorities, health care workers and the aged care providers on how we can make it compulsory for those working in aged care facilities,” he said.

“We cannot continue to have a situation where people, whose immunity is already low, are at risk from others who may be infected.”

Nation-wide more than 90,000 cases of influenza have been reported this year, which is two and a half times the amount recorded in the same period last year.