Nursing centre case the ‘perfect storm’ for covid cluster
THE detection of coronavirus at a Rockhampton aged care facility is "the perfect storm" for a cluster to occur, a nurses' association boss says.
Nurses' Professional Association of Queensland president Phill Tsingos has backed State Opposition calls for an inquiry into the potential disaster that unfolded at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre.
Yesterday, Keppel MP Brittany Lauga revealed the new coronavirus case in Rockhampton, one of two new cases in Queensland overnight Thursday into yesterday, was a nurse who may have been contagious since May 3.
The nurse kept working at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre despite having mild respiratory symptoms.
Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said it was believed the nurse contracted the virus in Brisbane, before travelling home to Rockhampton.
Mr Tsingos's association (NPAQ) represents about 5000 members and is separate to the Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union, which has almost 60,000 members.
Mr Tsingos questioned how something like this could have happened at the state-run facility, which has 115 beds and 180 staff.
"Look, it's a state-run facility," he said.
"Why is it that private hospitals are putting in scanners to check temperatures on the public and staff as they walk in, there's really strict measures, everyone gets questioned every day (about possible symptoms), yet a state-run facility like this has had none of that?"
Mr Tsingos also said he had personally warned the Queensland Government about the shortage of personal protective equipment (gloves, gowns and masks) in regional nursing homes and hospitals, but the government did not even provide him with a response.
"We've been asking the State Government for months now to ensure that nurses have the PPE that they need to perform their task," Mr Tsingos said.
"Not just in the hospitals, but also in the community, and in aged care facilities because you've got a high-density living area and it's very easy to contract a virus.
"So we've asked for that, we've even written letters, and we've had no reply from the State Government on it.
"We even sourced suppliers who could have brought in 50 million masks and 200,000 bottles of hand sanitiser at the start of March.
"We handed that information to the government, and we haven't heard anything back."
The Morning Bulletin contacted the office of Health Minister Steven Miles yesterday about Mr Tsingos comments, and subsequently a response came from a Queensland Health representative.
"We're not immune to supply chain issues globally," the representative said.
"There has been huge and ongoing disruption to PPE supply and we … need to manage this carefully.
"We are working with new and existing vendors to ensure supply.
"From eight new suppliers alone, Queensland Health has sourced 114,920,000 exam gloves and 3,020,000 face shields.
"Over the last three weeks we've seen a 20 per cent increase for surgical-related PPE.
"And we're meeting those current needs."
Mr Tsingos said he believed regional centres had not been well protected.
"We've got members in Rockhampton and in the Wide Bay area saying they've been told by their managers to wear one mask for a whole day, when they (masks) should be disposed of between patients.
"I've got a nurse up that way, she said she can only wear one protective gown for the whole week, when you should be disposing of these between patients."
Mr Tsingos also questioned whether the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre positive was a nurse or an assistant in nursing.
"They seem to put everyone in the same boat and call them a nurse, when they're not.
"If this is a nurse, then they've known that they've had this respiratory illness for 12 days now and working, that's very irresponsible."
The situation now, Mr Tsingos said, was "the perfect storm" for a cluster. "This is where you're going to start having a cluster.
"They (health authorities) have to find every person this worker has been in contact with, every minute of the day, work out where she went, for almost two weeks."
"This facility has 115 beds and 180 staff, and then you've got relatives coming in and seeing those clients as well, so how far did this (virus) go?
Dr Young said a rapid response team had been sent from Brisbane to Rocky.
"They are working to quarantine any staff and residents who may be contacts of that individual," she said. "They are rapidly testing a large number of people.
"The centre is currently locked down and the staff have been, any staff in contact, are in quarantine and have been tested."
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has called for a full investigation into the Rockhampton case, but stopped short of recommending disciplinary action.