Richmond MP Justine Elliot
Richmond MP Justine Elliot

Gastro virus kills woman

A TWEED Heads nursing home resident has died in a gastroenteritis outbreak this week that has infected 57 people and left three in hospital.

The 78-year-old woman's death has been referred to the coroner and authorities have moved in to investigate Bangalor Retreat Nursing Home.

A Commonwealth Nursing Officer and Complaints Investigation Scheme (CIS) officer made an unannounced visit yesterday after being advised of the outbreak by the New South Wales Public Health Unit.

The retreat, which is currently in lockdown, is a 101-bed nursing home in Tweed Heads West with five high-care and 96 low-care places.

Of the infected, 13 people are staff.

John Bolhuis, Bangalor's senior manager, said it was suspected a resident brought the virus to the facility from hospital.

“We have managed to contain the virus and are now nearly free of the virus and are hoping to come out of lockdown by the weekend,” Mr Bolhuis said.

Minister for Ageing and Richmond MP Justine Elliot said the welfare and safety of the residents was of the highest concern.

“The Department of Health and Ageing is closely monitoring the situation at Bangalor Retreat to ensure that all appropriate actions are being taken,” Mrs Elliot said.

“Australia's nursing homes and hostels and their staff provide world-class care and we can never wipe out infectious diseases, but we must always look at new ways to reduce infection,” Mrs Elliot said.

The Bangalor Retreat had been on a shortened accreditation period to February 2009 due to non-compliance in 13 areas identified by the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency in April 2008.

On November 12, 2008, the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency decided to re-accredit the nursing home until February 2010 - based on the nursing home achieving compliance in all 44 standard outcomes.

In the 2007-2008 financial year, the retreat received $1.34 million in subsidies from the Federal Government.

Gastro is a highly infectious virus and each year there are 17 million cases in Australia.

Most of the cases are mild, but older and frail people are more susceptible and suffer more severe symptoms.

Sixty per cent of outbreaks occur in nursing homes.

RSL's Winders Lodge at Banora Point is another that has suffered a recent lockdown.

In 2007, there were 1879 outbreaks of gastroenteritis in Australia, affecting 37,474 people.

The Government is trying to work on the gastro problem and in November last year released the Gastro-Info: Gastroenteritis Kit for Aged Care to support nursing homes and hostels in identifying and managing outbreaks.

Also, new national guidelines are being developed specifically focussing on norovirus, a common and highly infectious cause of gastroenteritis in nursing homes.

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