Hazzard won’t apologise to sick aged care worker
Health Minister Brad Hazzard's office has refused to apologise after he publicly criticised an aged care worker believed to have infected colleagues and patients in Western Sydney - even after police ruled she had no symptoms at the time.
Mr Hazzard announced in disbelief on Monday the part-time staffer at Anglicare's Newmarch House near Penrith had been to work "six straight days" with symptoms of illness before she and a resident tested positive to coronavirus.
"No doubt she thought she was doing the right thing, she was unfortunately not doing the right thing," Mr Hazzard told a press conference.
He added the incident had potentially "disastrous consequences".
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the woman was "absolutely mortified" and that she did have "mild symptoms" while at work.
"I have spoken to the director of the public health unit and this person is absolutely mortified," Dr Chant said yesterday.
"So, I think I would urge people to remember that the symptoms of COVID can be incredibly mild and the key point is do not go to work."
Police visited the nursing home on Thursday and announced that night there was no reckless intent, ruling she was not showing symptoms at work. They said they would take no further action against the worker.
Mr Hazzard's office did not issue an apology last night, instead reminding The Daily Telegraph the minister backed away from the criticism of the woman in the latter part of Monday's press conference.
"It is difficult to cast blame in that sense because no one is certain as yet as to what the symptoms were, so I think we should leave that to be sorted through," he said.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Newmarch House jumped to 10 - six staff and four residents - by yesterday morning.
The carer attended five shifts at Newmarch House, near Penrith, while infectious before testing positive to COVID-19. Five other staff and four residents have now tested positive.
Anglicare chief executive Grant Millard told The Daily Telegraph the police visited the home and asked why the woman had requested time off at her last shift on April 6.
"In a conversation with our care manager on the sixth she asked if she could not do her next shift … police have asked about that today. I think it was because she was concerned about her parents staying with her and she worked in aged care," Mr Millard said.
He said Anglicare would support the employee if "this is purely accidental".
"To be at home suffering COVID-19 and having concerns you might have done something inadvertently would be really distressing," he said.
Dr Chant said the carer had suffered a "scratchy" throat.
"That was not declared and was not apparent from the person-to-person interaction our manager had with her on the sixth," Mr Millard said.
Police said it was understood the woman was not symptomatic while at work, and was last on duty on April 2.
She was tested after this date when advised of contact with a person - not from the facility - who tested positive to COVID-19.
Matthew Fowler, whose father Lionel is in lockdown at the facility, said he was furious the worker had shown up while infectious.
"I'm already scared, I'm already having to contemplate my father's demise in the next fortnight," he said.
Louise Payne's mother Yvonne Vane, who turns 90 in July, resides in the wing where patients tested positive.
Ms Payne said the families of residents deserve answers.
"I don't understand why they weren't taking the temperatures of workers who entered the facility. Were they wearing protective gear? We want answers," she said.
Ms Payne said she called the centre on Tuesday to speak with staff, but no one would take her call. "We've found out things on the news, when we should be told first. It's time for them to be open and transparent," she said.
Ms Payne said she worried her mum would die alone. "I feel sick. I haven't slept. It's on my mind all the time. She's a beautiful person. It's just breaking my heart."
Originally published as Hazzard won't apologise to sick aged care worker