Virus hits majority of residents at Keilor Downs nursing home

An outbreak at a nursing home in Melbourne’s north-west has become Victoria’s largest active COVID-19 cluster after the coronavirus spread to 45 people linked with the facility, claimed three lives and put 20 residents in hospital.

More than 60 per cent of residents at the Estia Health facility in Keilor Downs have been infected since the first case was detected on September 11.

A staff member in protective gear disposes of waste at Estia Health in Keilor Downs on Monday.Credit:Justin McManus

It is believed the outbreak started when a resident returned to his shared room following a stay at Footscray Hospital, where he was in a room with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.

While Victoria’s daily coronavirus count continues to fall, with just five new cases reported on Monday, about 30 aged care facilities are still reporting active infections, resulting in 23 deaths over the past week.

Of the 872 deaths from coronavirus in Australia, 624 have occurred in Victorian nursing homes. The worst-hit facility has been St Basil's Homes for the Aged in Fawkner, where 44 residents have died after its outbreak.

Residents continue to return to St Basil's, but large parts of the complex are to remain shut, according to families agonising over whether to send loved ones back to the facility.

A resident of St Basil’s is taken to hospital in July amid a cluster of COVID-19 cases and deaths at the facility.Credit:Justin McManus

More than 30 residents have returned since St Basil’s was deemed by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on September 11 to have met safety standards.

Some people with relatives who survived the outbreak say they have been told another 10 or so residents were likely to follow but large parts of the 120-bed home would remain closed because there were no longer enough residents to fill it.

Tony Papantoniou with his mother Maria.

Tony Papantoniou’s 91-year-old mother Maria is among the St Basil’s residents who survived coronavirus, but her health has deteriorated after nine weeks in hospital, mostly unable to see her family.

"Her dementia has progressed," Mr Papantoniou said. "Before COVID she used to be able to take a few steps and walk to the toilet or shower … Now they have pretty much given up on her.

"She can’t walk at all or get out of bed."

Mrs Papantoniou remains in hospital and Mr Papantoniou said he was still considering whether he would allow her to be sent back to St Basil's, where there are no current cases of coronavirus.

"The facility takes 120 residents and they are down to 40," he said. "Because there are so few, they are now overstaffed."

Melbourne’s aged care outbreaks remain concentrated in the city's west, including at Opal Hobsons Bay in Altona North, where there have been 42 cases and four deaths, and Embracia Moonee Valley Aged Care, with 78 cases and eight deaths.

There are 15 active cases at Baptcare Wyndham Lodge Community in Werribee, where there have been 30 deaths during a persistent outbreak with the largest number of confirmed cases of any Victorian aged care facility.

At Estia Health in Keilor Downs, 15 staff and 24 of the 37 residents have tested positive for coronavirus.

A statement on Estia Health's website said all staff members who had tested positive or been identified as close contacts were self-isolating, while remaining staff and residents continued to undergo regular testing.

"We are immediately informing residents, families and employees of both positive and negative test outcomes as test results are returned and we are in frequent contact with residents’ families to update them of the situation and answer their questions," the statement said.

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