Over60

Caring

“Sitting there waiting to die”: Devastated granddaughter breaks down as she blasts Sydney nursing home

“Sitting there waiting to die”: Devastated granddaughter breaks down as she blasts Sydney nursing home

The Sydney aged care home responsible for almost a fifth of Australia’s coronavirus deaths has been lashed for its “horrific” handling of a virus outbreak as grieving families call for answers.

The outbreak which occurred at Newmarch House in western Sydney was declared over by NSW Health on June 15 but before that, families were forced to go through two months of trauma.

The coronavirus crisis hit the aged care home and killed 19 people with 37 residents and 34 staff testing positive for the virus.

Speaking to Four Corners, grieving families of the 19 Newmarch residents killed by the virus said their loved ones were left in heartbreaking and lonely situations in an apparent attempt to keep the outbreak contained.

Nicole Fahey, the granddaughter of 76-year-old Ann Fahey, said she wouldn’t stop until her family was given answers.

"They're sitting there waiting to die. They're hoping to not move them to hospital. How are they going to survive? Just sit there and get worse? Get them out," Ms Fahey told the program.

"It's a no-brainer for any normal Australian."

Ann was taken to Nepean Hospital – the only Newmarch House resident to be taken to hospital with coronavirus – a day after workers discovered her collapsed in her room with a fever and the virus.

"The infection control at the ICU unit...what I saw, in comparison to that home and that room ... if that wasn't able to be facilitated at Newmarch, get them out," Ms Fahey said.

"Why weren't they at the hospital? Why weren't they all in those ICU rooms? Give them a chance."

Nicole revealed that she was taken to hospital only after she contacted the media with her story – but it was too late. 

Anne died hours later, her body taken over by the virus.

"Her lungs were completely ravaged and damaged by COVID to the point where they weren't working either. And we just all stood there and we literally couldn't believe how fast that happened. She was having coffees and brunch, like, a few weeks before," Ms Fahey said.

"She can't even have a coffee, and that was really hard. Any death is horrible, but I think with the poor communication that we had over the last month, there has to be an inquiry. This has to be looked into, because it shouldn't have happened."

That is one of many cases as many distressed family members have complained about the negligent care the residents received.

Addressing the criticism at the height of the home's virus outbreak, Anglicare Sydney CEO Grant Millard said it had been a "monumental challenge" to staff Newmarch House.

"Getting that staff in there who know what they're doing, who are guaranteed to turn up, that is a day-by-day challenge," Mr Millard said in May.

"We've reached out to not only our own agency supplies, but eight aged care agencies who do supply staff. We've gone to local hospitals, private hospitals, seeking to get more staff, and it has been a monumental challenge."

After four people died at the home in one day, Mr Millard again grappled to offer his sympathies.

"To see them dying so quickly in these circumstances, despite the best medical care and attention that's been given to them and with the full staffing we have on board now, it's still a situation of significant grief and trauma," he said in May.

"At the end of the day, we are just one humble nursing home trying to look after people who we love and care for, and this is stretching everybody."

It's believed the outbreak started after a staff member infected with the virus, but only showing very mild symptoms, continued to work.

A total of 37 residents and 34 staff tested positive at the Anglicare-run facility in western Sydney while 19 residents died.

"This extraordinary challenge also highlighted the compassion and dedication of our staff, some of whom had to self-isolate and others who continued to work in difficult and unprecedented circumstances to maintain the care of all our residents," an Anglicare spokesman said in a statement on June 15, after the outbreak was declared over.

"While the outbreak is now over, the virus remains active within the community. Anglicare must remain vigilant in screening and infection control at Newmarch House, and across all our other aged care homes."