Why Australia isn’t seeing the COVID-19 crisis in its nursing homes that Canada is

News Apr 16, 2020 by Nicholas Keung Immigration Reporter

As Canadian health officials struggle to contain the rampant COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes, an outbreak at an aged home in Australia this week was called a “system failure.”

While even one coronavirus infection is too many, the characterization of the outbreak at the Anglicare’s Newmarch House in western Sydney on Tuesday that infected nine residents and six staff is very telling of the scale of the pandemic’s ravages on the two countries’ long-term care systems.

Although Australia, with a population of 25.4 million, is only two-thirds the size of Canada, which is home to 37.6 million people, seniors over the age of 65 account for just under 17 per cent of the total population in both countries, where seven per cent of the demographic group live in nursing homes.

However, so far, the impacts of the pandemic on this vulnerable population could not be further apart between Australia and Canada — and other countries in Europe and the United States.

In Canada, 462,353 people have been tested for the virus, with 27,557 confirmed cases and 954 deaths, about half of those who died were believed to have been linked to long-term-care homes. Ontario alone has had 114 outbreaks in facilities, with 145 deaths.

Just the Ontario nursing home death toll is twice the total fatalities of 63 deaths across Australia, which has tested 371,000 people and confirmed 6,447 positive cases as of Wednesday. In a recent report in April, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. said coronavirus cases were confirmed in at least 17 nursing homes.

Much of the difference can be explained by Australia’s national long-term-care system, which allows one standard at all public and private facilities under the watch of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, says Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing, a Toronto-based advocacy group for older people around the globe.

“Australia has a national system and it’s able to deal with the pandemic at the federal level. Each facility has a comprehensive pandemic plan that’s above and beyond the government guidelines,” said Barratt, a transplant from Australia.

“That’s not the case in Canada, where you have facilities run by the city, public and private sectors, with different standards from Ontario to P.E.I. and British Columbia.”

The well-being of the residents in care was on the mind of the Australian health authorities from the get-go, she said.

As early as mid-February, when the authorities published an emergency response plan for COVID-19 to the country’s health sector, part of the strategy was to put in place protocols and procedures to promote safety and security of the “most vulnerable” population in residential care.

Infection control guidelines, health-care safety and quality standards were established and implemented for those who worked and lived in these facilities.

“Aged care homes often have frequent visitors and carers coming and going, and close physical contact between staff, residents and their families,” Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy warned service providers in a letter in February.

“Elderly residents are more at risks of infections generally, and are particularly vulnerable to serious illness if they do become infected.”

Australia’s aged care homes were urged to assess the risk of, and take steps to prevent, detect and control the spread of infections, including isolating infectious individuals and applying standard precautions to prevent transmission and minimize the risk of infection spreading.

They were also required to establish protocols to manage health emergencies including service-wide infection outbreaks or broader community epidemics. Their individual emergency plans must include steps to take if infection is suspected or identified, as well as arrangements of staffing, isolation and quarantine within the facility, protection measures for other residents, visitors and workers.

On March 6, a national coronavirus health information line was established to answer questions and three days later, “quality assessors” were dispatched to ensure compliance.

“From preparing for exposure to visitors, sanitization, PPE (personal protection equipment) and emergencies, these plans are very detailed, within the framework by the government,” said Barratt of the International Federation on Ageing.

“There is the lockdown, inspection standards, staff-resident ratio and whether people have the PPE to do the job.”

Barratt said there are many long term care facilities across Canada that do not have a COVID-19 outbreak plan and it speaks to the importance of a national pandemic plan that applies across the board.

In Australia “it’s a well-oiled, co-ordinated machine,” she said. “That’s one of the key lessons for Canada. Communication, education, co-ordination and accountability.”

The first COVID-19 case in Australia was confirmed on January 25, two days before Canada reported that a man who travelled to China had tested positive.

But unlike Canada, Australia began the precautionary approach to quarantine people who returned from Hubei in January and extended the measure on February 1 to include everyone who came back from China.

Exactly two weeks before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic on March 11, Australia had already made its own declaration.

“We have made the call for Australia and will leave the WHO to outline its own standards,” Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters at a news conference in Melbourne in late February. “We are treating this as the Prime Minister (Scott Morrison) said two days ago, as the high likelihood of a pandemic. And as if we are in such a situation.”

That same day, Australia reported 16 COVID-19 cases, with 15 of the people infected having come back from Hubei province in January.

“Australia is not immune to COVID-19, but there is no country in the world better prepared for a health challenge like this,” Murphy, the country’s Chief Medical Officer, told reporters during a news briefing.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

Why Australia isn’t seeing the COVID-19 crisis in its nursing homes that Canada is

News Apr 16, 2020 by Nicholas Keung Immigration Reporter

As Canadian health officials struggle to contain the rampant COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes, an outbreak at an aged home in Australia this week was called a “system failure.”

While even one coronavirus infection is too many, the characterization of the outbreak at the Anglicare’s Newmarch House in western Sydney on Tuesday that infected nine residents and six staff is very telling of the scale of the pandemic’s ravages on the two countries’ long-term care systems.

Although Australia, with a population of 25.4 million, is only two-thirds the size of Canada, which is home to 37.6 million people, seniors over the age of 65 account for just under 17 per cent of the total population in both countries, where seven per cent of the demographic group live in nursing homes.

However, so far, the impacts of the pandemic on this vulnerable population could not be further apart between Australia and Canada — and other countries in Europe and the United States.

In Canada, 462,353 people have been tested for the virus, with 27,557 confirmed cases and 954 deaths, about half of those who died were believed to have been linked to long-term-care homes. Ontario alone has had 114 outbreaks in facilities, with 145 deaths.

Just the Ontario nursing home death toll is twice the total fatalities of 63 deaths across Australia, which has tested 371,000 people and confirmed 6,447 positive cases as of Wednesday. In a recent report in April, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. said coronavirus cases were confirmed in at least 17 nursing homes.

Much of the difference can be explained by Australia’s national long-term-care system, which allows one standard at all public and private facilities under the watch of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, says Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing, a Toronto-based advocacy group for older people around the globe.

“Australia has a national system and it’s able to deal with the pandemic at the federal level. Each facility has a comprehensive pandemic plan that’s above and beyond the government guidelines,” said Barratt, a transplant from Australia.

“That’s not the case in Canada, where you have facilities run by the city, public and private sectors, with different standards from Ontario to P.E.I. and British Columbia.”

The well-being of the residents in care was on the mind of the Australian health authorities from the get-go, she said.

As early as mid-February, when the authorities published an emergency response plan for COVID-19 to the country’s health sector, part of the strategy was to put in place protocols and procedures to promote safety and security of the “most vulnerable” population in residential care.

Infection control guidelines, health-care safety and quality standards were established and implemented for those who worked and lived in these facilities.

“Aged care homes often have frequent visitors and carers coming and going, and close physical contact between staff, residents and their families,” Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy warned service providers in a letter in February.

“Elderly residents are more at risks of infections generally, and are particularly vulnerable to serious illness if they do become infected.”

Australia’s aged care homes were urged to assess the risk of, and take steps to prevent, detect and control the spread of infections, including isolating infectious individuals and applying standard precautions to prevent transmission and minimize the risk of infection spreading.

They were also required to establish protocols to manage health emergencies including service-wide infection outbreaks or broader community epidemics. Their individual emergency plans must include steps to take if infection is suspected or identified, as well as arrangements of staffing, isolation and quarantine within the facility, protection measures for other residents, visitors and workers.

On March 6, a national coronavirus health information line was established to answer questions and three days later, “quality assessors” were dispatched to ensure compliance.

“From preparing for exposure to visitors, sanitization, PPE (personal protection equipment) and emergencies, these plans are very detailed, within the framework by the government,” said Barratt of the International Federation on Ageing.

“There is the lockdown, inspection standards, staff-resident ratio and whether people have the PPE to do the job.”

Barratt said there are many long term care facilities across Canada that do not have a COVID-19 outbreak plan and it speaks to the importance of a national pandemic plan that applies across the board.

In Australia “it’s a well-oiled, co-ordinated machine,” she said. “That’s one of the key lessons for Canada. Communication, education, co-ordination and accountability.”

The first COVID-19 case in Australia was confirmed on January 25, two days before Canada reported that a man who travelled to China had tested positive.

But unlike Canada, Australia began the precautionary approach to quarantine people who returned from Hubei in January and extended the measure on February 1 to include everyone who came back from China.

Exactly two weeks before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic on March 11, Australia had already made its own declaration.

“We have made the call for Australia and will leave the WHO to outline its own standards,” Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters at a news conference in Melbourne in late February. “We are treating this as the Prime Minister (Scott Morrison) said two days ago, as the high likelihood of a pandemic. And as if we are in such a situation.”

That same day, Australia reported 16 COVID-19 cases, with 15 of the people infected having come back from Hubei province in January.

“Australia is not immune to COVID-19, but there is no country in the world better prepared for a health challenge like this,” Murphy, the country’s Chief Medical Officer, told reporters during a news briefing.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

Why Australia isn’t seeing the COVID-19 crisis in its nursing homes that Canada is

News Apr 16, 2020 by Nicholas Keung Immigration Reporter

As Canadian health officials struggle to contain the rampant COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes, an outbreak at an aged home in Australia this week was called a “system failure.”

While even one coronavirus infection is too many, the characterization of the outbreak at the Anglicare’s Newmarch House in western Sydney on Tuesday that infected nine residents and six staff is very telling of the scale of the pandemic’s ravages on the two countries’ long-term care systems.

Although Australia, with a population of 25.4 million, is only two-thirds the size of Canada, which is home to 37.6 million people, seniors over the age of 65 account for just under 17 per cent of the total population in both countries, where seven per cent of the demographic group live in nursing homes.

However, so far, the impacts of the pandemic on this vulnerable population could not be further apart between Australia and Canada — and other countries in Europe and the United States.

In Canada, 462,353 people have been tested for the virus, with 27,557 confirmed cases and 954 deaths, about half of those who died were believed to have been linked to long-term-care homes. Ontario alone has had 114 outbreaks in facilities, with 145 deaths.

Just the Ontario nursing home death toll is twice the total fatalities of 63 deaths across Australia, which has tested 371,000 people and confirmed 6,447 positive cases as of Wednesday. In a recent report in April, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. said coronavirus cases were confirmed in at least 17 nursing homes.

Much of the difference can be explained by Australia’s national long-term-care system, which allows one standard at all public and private facilities under the watch of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, says Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing, a Toronto-based advocacy group for older people around the globe.

“Australia has a national system and it’s able to deal with the pandemic at the federal level. Each facility has a comprehensive pandemic plan that’s above and beyond the government guidelines,” said Barratt, a transplant from Australia.

“That’s not the case in Canada, where you have facilities run by the city, public and private sectors, with different standards from Ontario to P.E.I. and British Columbia.”

The well-being of the residents in care was on the mind of the Australian health authorities from the get-go, she said.

As early as mid-February, when the authorities published an emergency response plan for COVID-19 to the country’s health sector, part of the strategy was to put in place protocols and procedures to promote safety and security of the “most vulnerable” population in residential care.

Infection control guidelines, health-care safety and quality standards were established and implemented for those who worked and lived in these facilities.

“Aged care homes often have frequent visitors and carers coming and going, and close physical contact between staff, residents and their families,” Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy warned service providers in a letter in February.

“Elderly residents are more at risks of infections generally, and are particularly vulnerable to serious illness if they do become infected.”

Australia’s aged care homes were urged to assess the risk of, and take steps to prevent, detect and control the spread of infections, including isolating infectious individuals and applying standard precautions to prevent transmission and minimize the risk of infection spreading.

They were also required to establish protocols to manage health emergencies including service-wide infection outbreaks or broader community epidemics. Their individual emergency plans must include steps to take if infection is suspected or identified, as well as arrangements of staffing, isolation and quarantine within the facility, protection measures for other residents, visitors and workers.

On March 6, a national coronavirus health information line was established to answer questions and three days later, “quality assessors” were dispatched to ensure compliance.

“From preparing for exposure to visitors, sanitization, PPE (personal protection equipment) and emergencies, these plans are very detailed, within the framework by the government,” said Barratt of the International Federation on Ageing.

“There is the lockdown, inspection standards, staff-resident ratio and whether people have the PPE to do the job.”

Barratt said there are many long term care facilities across Canada that do not have a COVID-19 outbreak plan and it speaks to the importance of a national pandemic plan that applies across the board.

In Australia “it’s a well-oiled, co-ordinated machine,” she said. “That’s one of the key lessons for Canada. Communication, education, co-ordination and accountability.”

The first COVID-19 case in Australia was confirmed on January 25, two days before Canada reported that a man who travelled to China had tested positive.

But unlike Canada, Australia began the precautionary approach to quarantine people who returned from Hubei in January and extended the measure on February 1 to include everyone who came back from China.

Exactly two weeks before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic on March 11, Australia had already made its own declaration.

“We have made the call for Australia and will leave the WHO to outline its own standards,” Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters at a news conference in Melbourne in late February. “We are treating this as the Prime Minister (Scott Morrison) said two days ago, as the high likelihood of a pandemic. And as if we are in such a situation.”

That same day, Australia reported 16 COVID-19 cases, with 15 of the people infected having come back from Hubei province in January.

“Australia is not immune to COVID-19, but there is no country in the world better prepared for a health challenge like this,” Murphy, the country’s Chief Medical Officer, told reporters during a news briefing.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung