Family in dark over aged care virus death

By AAP Newswire

The daughter of an aged care resident who died from coronavirus at Sydney's Newmarch House was left in the dark about his test result and health.

Ron Farrell, 94, was one of 17 residents who died during the outbreak at the home earlier this year.

Virginia Clarke told the aged care commission that communication from the facility about her father's treatment and condition was poor.

Ms Clarke said she was told on Easter Sunday a staff member had tested positive and all residents would be tested and the home locked down.

"I rang every day to find out what was happening," she told the commission on Tuesday.

"Usually whoever answered the phone couldn't tell me anything. They said we would have to get somebody to ring you back.

"Sometimes we would get a phone call back. Sometimes we wouldn't."

She didn't find out about his positive test result until a manager called her on a routine check-up.

"She said 'you don't know?'. And I said 'no'. She said 'I'm really really sorry, he got his results back and he tested positive for COVID-19'."

"I was in shock. I didn't know what to say."

Mr Farrell, a father of seven who had served in the airforce and worked as an auctioneer and stock agent, died on April 19.

Ms Clarke said there was no indication whatsoever her dad was close to death.

She had earlier been told to update his end-of-life documentation and said she was advised "everybody is doing this".

"Nobody actually told me what treatment dad was getting," she said.

"I think that more communication (is needed), ringing up saying 'your dad slept well last night'."

Ms Clarke had to estimate her father's time of death so the crematorium could pick up his body because Newmarch House didn't provide the detail.

Grant Millard, CEO of Anglicare Sydney, which runs the home, conceded the organisation had challenges communicating with families.

"We were absolutely overwhelmed with the challenges of dealing with with COVID-19," he said.

"We have had some learnings, particularly about communication from within the home to families."

The aged care royal commission, which is examining the sector's pandemic preparedness and response, has heard Newmarch House had staffing issues, struggles sourcing personal protective equipment, and received mixed advice from government and experts.