COVID-19 infections found in Nepean Hospital mental health ward – Sydney Morning Herald

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A staff member, who spoke to The Sydney Morning Herald on the condition of anonymity because of their position at the hospital, said that dozens of nurses would be asked to isolate for two weeks or continue working after the patient first tested positive in the ED and was brought to the high dependency unit last week.

Multiple patients have subsequently tested positive on the acute ward, according to the staff member.

Nepean Hospital’s mental health centre holds 64 beds and four wards: a high dependency unit, an acute inpatient unit, a triage and assessment centre and an older persons mental health unit.

“The centre is not safe for COVID-19 patients, mental health wards are not designed for infection control. We were only able to access PPE a week after the first patient tested positive,” the staff member said.

“There are now no nurses available to work the next day or night shifts.”

A doctor who saw one of the patients now confirmed to be positive within the unit said he was not sure if he was a close contact.

“To be honest, there are a lot of people who aren’t sure what their contact status is”.

He said the mood at Tuesday afternoon’s staff meeting, which was held remotely, was anxious and angry. “People were pretty frustrated,” he said. “The local health district has a staffing crisis.”

“On acute mental health wards, patients often gather in common areas, some are detained against their will, and now they are getting infected with COVID-19,” said the doctor.

Brett Holmes, general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, said the union was aware of “a major issue in the mental health centre, where a patient was admitted for a number of days before testing positive and exposing staff and other patients inside an acute mental health unit”.

“We are alarmed that Nepean mental health management have failed to communicate promptly with our members or the union for more than 24 hours regarding this critical situation,” Mr Holmes said.

“As result of a significant shortfall of mental health nurses, members who have been exposed in this workplace, with surgical masks as their only protection, are being asked to isolate when they go home but alarmingly come to work, now in full PPE.

“Understandably, our members are very concerned they may have unknowingly exposed their families over the last five days. We will continue to work with our members, the District and the Ministry of Health to assist with the co-ordination of support to our affected members.”

A spokesperson for NSW Health said that all identified close contacts are being tested.

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“Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District takes every measure to protect staff, patients and visitors from COVID-19. Extensive cleaning has been undertaken at the centre including the cleaning of all equipment and high-touch areas.”

It is the second-largest hospital cluster currently active in Sydney’s outbreak.

Twenty-nine patients and seven staff members have tested positive across Liverpool Hospital’s geriatric and neurology wards after a student nurse worked while unknowingly infectious. The cluster has resulted in six deaths.

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