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EXCLUSIVE: Colbeck's negligence sounded Newmarch COVID death knell

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Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck is being asked to resign over failing to maintain safe COVID procedures (Image by Dan Jensen)

Minister Richard Colbeck’s aged care regulator gave Newmarch House the green light to keep operating despite it failing over 80 per cent of its safety standards after 2020’s deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

The COVID-19 outbreak that swept through the Sydney aged care facility, infecting 71 and taking 19 lives, was declared officially over on 15 June 2020.

The following month, inspectors with the Federal Government’s Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) completed a four-day site inspection at Newmarch House.

A copy of their findings reveals they found Newmarch House “non-compliant” in a massive 35 of its 42 safety criteria.

(Image supplied)

It received one of the worst report cards ever handed out to an Australian aged care facility. It makes for highly disturbing reading.

Resident alarm bells were ‘repeatedly not being answered’; resident’s end of life preferences were ‘not identified or addressed in accordance with the consumer’s expressed wishes’; staff ‘did not follow procedures in terms of monitoring of infections’; and Anglicare Sydney failed to demonstrate it had ‘effective risk management systems and practices’ or an ‘effective clinical governance framework’.

The inspection report says:

Skin care, falls management, medication management continence care, end of life care, nutrition and hydration and incident management is not consistent with the organisation’s work instructions and does not always meet consumer needs and does not optimise consumer health and well-being.

 

Risks are not considered in assessment and planning to inform the delivery of safe and effective care to each consumer in relation to diabetes and insulin management, prevention and management of urinary tract infection, fluid intake, falls prevention and management and bowel management.

 

While some sampled consumers consider that they receive personal care and clinical care that is safe and right for them, most do not.

Yet despite those devastating findings – reported by its own professional inspectors – the aged care watchdog not only decided “not to revoke accreditation” of the service, it inexplicably extended its accreditation period.

Newmarch House is run by the Anglican Church-owned Anglicare Sydney.

The revelations come amid mounting calls for Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck to resign.

During the past month, COVID-19 infections in aged care facilities have exploded — from 385 infections among residents and staff on December 23 to 23,900 at the end of January.

(Source: Australian Government Department of Health)

At the start of December, there were 28 aged care facilities nationwide with COVID-19 outbreaks. Now there are 1,176.

Last month it emerged that among them, once again, is Sydney’s Newmarch House.

Yesterday Prime Minister Scott Morrison, following mounting public outcry, announced he would call in the armed forces in an attempt to get a grip on the crisis, in a mounting scandal experts say is threatening his leadership.

The Federal Opposition has repeatedly called for Colbeck to resign.

Last month, Colbeck claimed he was too busy to front aged care senate hearings.

It later emerged the Aged Care Minister had been at the cricket.

The findings of the inspectors are particularly remarkable, given the inspection occurred as Newmarch House — the site of what was the nation’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak.

Newmarch House was the most scrutinised aged care facility in the country, if not the nation’s history.

Aged care facilities are subject to sporadic audits by ASQSC inspectors and must meet 42 safety requirements.

The previous inspection at Newmarch House had been conducted in September 2018.

At that time, Newmarch House ‘met 44 of the 44 expected outcomes of the Accreditation Standards’.

(The number of criteria assessment standards against which aged care homes are tested was dropped from 44 to 42.)

The July 2020 inspection, which Newmarch House comprehensively failed, was conducted after an “independent advisor” had been installed at the facility.

On 6 May 2020, facing a media storm, the ASQSC said Newmarch House must immediately stop taking in new residents and employ an “independent advisor”.

Anglicare was to ‘ensure that any directions and advice given by the adviser are actioned immediately and without delay’ and ‘provide regular reporting to [the ASQSC] on specified matters’.

The advisor employed at Newmarch House was lawyer and former investment banker Andrew Kinkade.

Kinkade, previously a consultant with Bain Capital, was general manager of residential care at Catholic Healthcare from 2017 until May last year, when he became a managing director of Bupa Dental Care.

The ASQSC said Kinkade had been appointed for a three-month term – at Anglicare Sydney’s expense – from 7 May to 8 August.

Yet on 19 June, ASQSC Commissioner Janet Anderson wrote to Anglicare Sydney and said that now the COVID-19 outbreak was “over”, Kinkade would finish up one month early.

Kinkade would finish up ‘in the week beginning 29 June 2020’.

The inspectors wound up their four-day inspection of Newmarch House on Friday 3 July.

In a statement, Anderson said Kinkade ‘has played an instrumental role in strengthening Newmarch House’s response to the outbreak’.

Anderson wrote:

‘His knowledge, expertise and experience have been pivotal in driving improvements in the operation of the service.’

Kinkade did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Despite the July 2020 inspection failing Newmarch House in 35 of its 42 criteria, ASQSC management in August 2020 extended Newmarch House’s accreditation.

A timeline of the events at Newmarch is as follows:

2018:

September: Newmarch House audit, 44 of 44 standards met.

2020:

12 April: Newmarch House COVID-19 outbreak begins.

6 May: Anglicare given a “Notice to Agree” by ASQSC, including appointing an “independent advisor” for three months.

7 May: Advisor Kinkade starts “three-month” appointment.

15 June: Newmarch House outbreak declared over — 71 COVID-19 cases, 19 resident deaths.

19 June: ASQSC boss Anderson announces Kinkade will finish up one month early, ending ‘in the week commencing 29 June 2020’.

30 June-3 July: ASQSC experts conduct Newmarch House site inspection.

14 August: Inspection report finalised — Newmarch fails 35 of 42 standards.

14 August (same day): ACQSC management says it will ‘not revoke accreditation of this service’. Inexplicably extends Newmarch House’s accreditation.

2022:

4 January: Newmarch House records new COVID-19 infection.

Anthony Klan is an investigative journalist and editor of The Klaxon. You can follow him on Twitter @Anthony_Klan.

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