The Covid outbreaks aged care homes Excel spreadsheet contains data obtained from the Department of Health’s Weekly COVID-19 outbreaks in Australian residential aged care facilities.
To explain some background about how this weekly report came about – and why I continue to update Excel spreadsheets that summarise the data.
I began naming aged care homes during Victoria’s outbreak in 2020, when the data was “top secret”.
At a Senate inquiry hearing on August 4, 2020, Dr Brendan Murphy, secretary of the Department of Health, and Senator Richard Colbeck, the Minister for Aged Care at the time, refused to name the aged care homes with outbreaks during Victoria’s second wave. They explained that providers didn’t want to be publicly named because they were worried about “reputational damage”.
In my view, it is not the role of the Department of Health or a Minister to protect aged care homes from reputational damage. So I began preparing a weekly list of the outbreaks in Victorian aged care homes in 2020.
After a month or so weeks of updating my list (mostly from intel from members of my Aged Care Matters Facebook Group), the Department of Health released its first Weekly report on 11 September 2020. At that time, an outbreak was defined as one resident or staff testing positive for Covid.
More recently the Department has listed only the names of aged care homes with two or more Covid cases.
This data has been released every week. However, many people told me they found the reports difficult to understand. So I began presenting the data in a simple Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet includes the number of cases (residents and staff) and deaths (residents) in each aged care home.
With the Omicron wave, my spreadsheets have enabled people to track the outbreaks in each aged care home over time. This has been important for families who do not receive timely information from the aged care home.
It also enabled people to observe the increased number of aged care homes with outbreaks.
||Number aged care homes with Covid outbreak
On 31 December 2022 – when Omicorn was spreading like wildfire in aged care homes – the Department did not release the weekly data. No explanation was given for this failure to keep the public (including families) updated.
The weekly report recommenced on 7 January 2022.
In the sheet titled “7 Jan”, the entries highlighted with yellow indicate the aged care homes homes that went into lockdown because a staff member tested positive (i.e. no residents tested positive). In NSW, for example, about 15 per cent of aged care homes were in lockdown on 7 Jan because a staff member tested positive (i.e. not a resident).
The outbreaks caused by staff bringing Covid into the aged care home were preventable.
They could have been avoided with all staff having a rapid antigen testing before their shift. I first wrote about using rapid antigen tests in aged care homes in The Guardian
in December 2020.
While taking a test may be inconvenient and time-consuming, it is infinitely preferable to putting residents and families through the trauma of a lockdown.
I put notes in a column of the January 7 spreadsheet to indicate the aged care homes that had a surge in case numbers. These were the aged care homes that needed to be watched (hoping they didn’t have a further surge in case numbers). However, it was not possible to track these homes because the Department did not release the names of the aged care homes with outbreaks on 14 January.
On Jan 14, the Department indicated in a footnote of the Weekly Report that there were “technical issues”. Rather than delay the release of the report until these “technical issues” were resolved, someone in the Department decided to cut and paste the Appendix from the previous report, perhaps hoping that no one would notice.
I noticed – and I was appalled! No data is better than misleading data.
With poor communication in many aged care homes, families rely on the weekly report (and my spreadsheet) for accurate information. In my 6 years of advocacy, the Department’s decision to release a report with misleading data was the nadir. It made me despair.
The decision to cut and paste the Appendix in 14 Jan’s report is yet another example of the Department of Health’s lack of transparency and accountability.
If we can’t trust the Department to release accurate information, who can we trust?
Over the past few months, I have frequently emailed a list of mistakes in the Department’s weekly report. On 9 January, I emailed:
Thanks for releasing the data – I am sure it has been a busy time with so many aged care homes with outbreaks.
I note with confusion that you are now naming some home care providers in your list of aged care homes with outbreaks. Are you able to tell me why?
On 24 Dec, you listed the following home care providers as active outbreaks:
Integratedliving Home Care Packages
St Basil’s In Home Care
On 7 Jan, you listed
Calvary Community Care
Five good friends
Anglicare SQ South Coast Region Home Care
Integrated Living Australia
Multicultural Aged Care Services Geelong Inc
Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association
Banyule City Council
Hume City Council
Northern Health Home Care Packages – Level 4
Wintringham Home Care
The Australian Asian Association of WA Triple A Care
You may also be interested in correcting the entry numbers 115 and 237 in the Appendix.
Also – Bupa Clemton Park is in NSW, not Victoria. Also you may want to correct the spelling.
Also, curious that Wesley House (SA) had 1 resident with an active case on 24th Dec. Yet on 7 Jan, had zero (with zero resolved).
I received no reply to my email.
I no longer trust the accuracy of the data from the Department of Health. Nonetheless, I continue to update my spreadsheets because families tell me my spreadsheets are helpful.
Updating the current spreadsheet involved adding 703 additional aged care homes with outbreaks. It was a mammoth effort.
I also wrote another email to the Department.
Could you please forward this email to whoever is responsible for the weekly updates.
Putting on record (again) my extreme disappointment at DoH’s decision to cut and paste the Appendix from Jan 7 into Jan 14.
I appreciate you had technical issues. However no data is better than misleading data.
Did you consider the families who rely on this information (due to poor communication in many aged care homes)? In my 6 years as a voluntary aged care advocate, it was the nadir.
Having said that, I am pleased that you have corrected some of your earlier mistakes – On 21 Jan, there are no home care services in your list of residential aged care outbreaks. You have also listed Clemton Park (spelt correctly in 21 Jan edition) in NSW, not Victoria. Thank you
The report on 21 January has less mistakes than I have become accustomed to seeing in these weekly reports. However, you have listed Catholic Healthcare St Joseph Aged Care twice with different numbers. Does this aged care home have 3 or 8 residents tested positive?
I also note with surprise that Lark Ellen Aged Care (that had 20 Covid positive residents on 7 January) is not listed. Is the outbreak resolved?
Ditto Blue Cross Elly Kay in Victoria. It had 40 Covid positive residents on 7 January. Yet it is not listed in 21 Jan report. Is the outbreak resolved?
I am also pleasantly surprised that Villa Maria Catholic homes O’Neill Aged Care Residence had 21 residents with Covid on 7 Jan, and zero on 21 Jan. Might be worth checking if this is correct. Also worth checking Whitlesea Lodge (21 residents with Covid on 7 Jan; zero on Jan 21).
I would welcome another conversation with Cameron, if this is possible
I also used compared the data from 7 January with 21 January to identify 10 aged care homes with largest increase of residents with Covid.
|Aged care home
||Residents +ve on 7 Jan
||Residents +ve on 21 Jan
|Estia Health Kilbride (NSW)
|Russian Relief Association of St Sergius of Radonezh (NSW)
|Cardinal Stepinac Village (NSW)
|Uniting Wesley Gardens Belrose (NSW)
|Bossley Parkside Care Community (NSW)
|Fronditha Clayton Aged Care Facility (2nd outbreak) (Vic)
|Bupa Greenacre (3rd outbreak) (NSW)
|Forest Lake Lodge (QLD)
|Bupa Clemton Park (2nd Outbreak) (NSW)
|Constitution Hill Aged Care (NSW)
We need to know the factors that contribute to some homes containing the virus while other homes have had a huge surge. For example, in past fortnight, 105 home had a surge in numbers while 71 had no change in numbers.
Is this due to: Residents not receiving a booster shot? Poor infection control? Unable to access PPE? Inadequate staffing levels/training (e.g. training in how to don and doff PPE)? Poor ventilation?