A Melbourne woman has spoken about the devastating effect coronavirus can have on a family after both of her elderly parents fell ill at their aged care home.
John, 84, and his wife Elizabeth, 83, tested positive almost three weeks ago as Victoria’s second wave began to ramp up, their daughter Lee-Anne, 60, told Yahoo News Australia on Thursday.
Despite both suffering from underlying symptoms, their reactions to the deadly virus have been starkly different.
John, who had a stroke seven years ago, has remained completely asymptomatic, while Elizabeth began struggling to breathe within hours and was rushed to hospital, where she developed a horrible cough and a high temperature.
Lee-Anne said the next few days were rough for her mum and the entire family after doctors told them she wouldn’t survive being intubated.
“It was really confronting and hard. It sounded like she had been given a death sentence,” she said, adding that although it was hard, they could understand why doctors were reluctant to intervene.
Elizabeth has moved to multiple hospitals over the last few weeks, and at one point showed signs of pneumonia, but has since been moved out of acute care.
As well as the health issues, Lee-Anne said both of her parents have suffered mentally from coronavirus and the subsequent treatment.
Being isolated in their rooms with no social interaction has left them feeling deflated, she said.
Because of the parameters in place to protect healthcare staff, nurses are unable to help Elizabeth shower so it is up to her to keep clean with provided wipes.
It has left her feeling dehumanised, Lee-Anne said, adding that she has only been able to see them once since March.
“It shouldn’t be like this. They should be surrounded by their family and love during their twilight years,” she said.
Coronavirus Victoria: More than 1500 aged care cases
Out of the 7,637 active cases across Victoria, 1,548 are connected to aged care facilities – which have experience a particularly large explosion in cases during the second wave.
The state on Friday recorded 450 new cases and 11 deaths, seven of which are linked to aged care.
There are fears more healthcare workers could catch coronavirus after 139 staffers were found positive on Friday. More than 900 medical staff are currently self-isolating after being diagnosed, which has forced facilities to bring in more outside help.
Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the increase in coronavirus among healthcare staff is “very concerning” and called it “a very big number.”
“In our hospital system, nurses are more represented in these healthcare workers numbers than doctors. The number of doctors is much less,” he said.
COVID aged care: Other states could repeat same mistakes
Other states are doomed to repeat Victoria's hospital and aged care coronavirus outbreaks if personal protective equipment (PPE) and other protocols aren't overhauled urgently, a peak body says.
The Australian Institute of Health and Safety is calling for immediate government intervention to address the rampant spread of coronavirus in healthcare settings.
"The current infection rate is unacceptable," AIHS chairwoman Naomi Kemp said on Thursday.
"But more tragically, it is preventable."
The "failure" to instil adequate health and safety standards contributed to the state's second wave infiltrating hospitals and aged-care centres, Ms Kemp said.
The national safety body claims many building site workers have better PPE to combat the virus than doctors and nurses.
National PPE guidance for use in hospitals does not require staff to wear P2 or N95 masks while treating confirmed or potential COVID-19 patients.
Surgical masks, more commonly used in hospitals, do not offer the same level of protection against the airborne virus.
The AIHS wants federal and state governments to step in and mandate the use of P2 and N95 respirators in these circumstances among a bevy of best-practice virus upgrades.
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