Twin Parks Aged Care Centre in Reservoir is blaming rapid antigen tests (RATs) for the outbreak, as the Federal Government committed to deploying the ADF to help the crippled sector.
Leaked emails, obtained by 9News, have revealed the outbreak began with two infected residents, described as “extremely active” within the Twin Parks community.
The facility then gave close contacts multiple rapid tests, but many came up negative.
A decision was made to give all residents in the home’s West Wing a PCR test, the results alarmingly revealing at least 20 residents had contracted COVID-19.
Deputy Director at the Burnet Institute, Associate Professor David Anderson said RATs were not completely accurate, particularly during the early stages of infection.
“They’re not a complete solution because they do miss somewhere between 20 and 50 per cent of cases especially early in infection, including when people are very infectious and can transmit the virus,” he told 9News.
The centre informed families of the positive results yesterday.
Twin Parks said residents had been tested with two different brands of RATs to confirm their diagnosis, but they provided conflicting results.
The facility has had issues previously, with one email in December highlighting the inaccuracy of the tests.
“These tests are not particularly reliable, given our positive staff member tested negative on multiple RATs in the last week,” it read.
When questioned about the accuracy of RATs, Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted they were not as reliable.
“Rapid antigen tests are of course not as accurate as PCR tests,” he said today.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said PCR tests were preferred until the Omicron wave hit and infections rose to levels testing clinics could no longer handle.
Twin Parks has already experienced COVID-19 tragedy, with more than 20 residents dying during Melbourne’s second wave.
“Facilities like this are doing their best in very trying circumstances,” relative David Steart said.
“I have confidence in the facility, not necessarily in the Federal Government.”
The ADF has been sent to help medical teams and workers at aged care facilities around the country.
Mr Morrison announced today about 1700 ADF personnel would assist at facilities.
“In each state and territory, it will begin with around 50 personnel going to support each state and up to 200,” he said.
The aged care sector may right now be operating 140,000 shifts a week fewer than normal, according to some reports.
The large gap is leaving residents isolated, requiring the ADF to get involved.
“An important part of your quality of life is being able to have access to your family,” Mr Morrison said.
Large numbers of staff taken out of the workforce has impacted the access residents have had with family members.
Fifteen military planners will work with the Department of Health to coordinate ADF support to the aged care facilities.