Aged care resident confirmed as Australia's second coronavirus related fatality

The 95-year-old woman was a resident of the same northern Sydney aged care facility where a nurse in her 50s tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

An aged-care worker has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

An aged-care worker has been diagnosed with coronavirus. Source: AAP

A 95-year-old aged care resident has been confirmed as the second person to die in Australia after contracting the coronavirus, as New South Wales health authorities attempt to track how it entered the facility.

The elderly woman was a resident of BaptistCare's Dorothy Henderson Lodge in northern Sydney, where a .

NSW Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant expressed her sympathy to the family of the woman, who died in hospital on Tuesday before testing positive for the COVID-19 virus the following day.

Four people connected to the facility, including the nurse, have now tested positive for the virus as specialist support staff were brought in from across the state to help manage the situation.

The latest diagnosis was a 70-year-old resident of the Macquarie Park facility who had no known contact with the nurse, bringing the state's total to 22 cases, NSW Health confirmed on Wednesday night.

Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged-care facility.
The Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged-care facility in Sydney. Source: BaptistCare

Earlier on Wednesday, an 82-year-old male resident was also confirmed to have contracted the disease and was being treated in hospital.

At a press conference at midday on Thursday, Dr Chant said NSW Health officials were visiting the facility daily to ensure any further spread is detected but speculated that further cases were likely. 

"It's not surprising that we will identify additional cases in that aged care facility, and that reflect exposures that have occurred prior to any interventions," she said, adding that they were investigating the possibility that the virus was transmitted during a visit from a nearby childcare centre.

Visits to the aged care facility have been now cancelled and residents are being kept in isolation, including having their meals brought to their rooms. 

A BaptistCare spokesperson said their regular staff had shown "great dedication" in caring for the remaining residents as a team of NSW Health experts led the response to the outbreak. 

"As an aged care provider caring for older residents who are more vulnerable to infection, BaptistCare is experienced in disease control measures and we have had best-practice precautions in place across our aged care centres in NSW and ACT," they said. 

The long-term staff member, a woman in her 50s, had not recently travelled overseas and it was unknown where she contracted the virus.

"This much-loved staff member had not travelled. She had not been overseas. She had not been to any of the hot spots around the world. So, that raises the question, how did she end up with coronavirus," NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

The infected staff member had worked with 13 residents after first noticing symptoms circa the 24 February, before being formally diagnosed on Tuesday evening.

Federal Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy on Wednesday said it was "very unfortunate" that the staff member continued to work while unwell, putting elderly residents at risk.

Elderly people and those with pre-existing health conditions appear to be the most at risk of COVID-19, representing the vast majority of the 3,100 deaths worldwide.

The fatality comes days after a  while being treated for the virus in a Perth hospital. 

NSW Health confirmed six new COVID-19 cases in the state on Wednesday night, taking the number of people infected nationally to more than 50. 

The number of locally-contracted cases has also jumped to seven across the state, suggesting that the virus is now moving throughout the NSW community. 

The other new cases included a female doctor who works at Liverpool hospital, a female patient in her 30s from Sydney's northern beaches, a male in his 50s from Cronulla and a woman in her 60s who is believed to have recently returned from the Philippines.

The Liverpool Hospital doctor had attended the same radiology seminar as a doctor from Ryde Hospital who tested positive for the virus earlier this week, Mr Hazzard said.

About 77 medical practitioners were at the 18 February conference but so far none of the other attendees had shown coronavirus symptoms. 

Dr Chant also confirmed that one of the earlier cases was a Macquarie University lecturer but stressed that he not been to campus, which is located next to the Dorothy Henderson Lodge, since returning from Iran. 

NSW Health is also alerting passengers who were on four separate flights from Asia in the past week after two men in their 30s, a man in his 50s and two women in their 60s tested positive following their arrival in Sydney. 

5 min read
Published 5 March 2020 at 5:51am
By Maani Truu