A Covid-19 response commander says he is ‘disappointed’ and ‘exceptionally concerned’ after a nurse who has tested positive while working in a coronavirus ward also worked shifts at a second Melbourne hospital.
Victoria’s testing commander Jeroen Weimar revealed the alarming breach on Thursday morning, which has put thousands of residents at risk.
He confirmed the fully-vaccinated nurse, who was among three new cases announced on Wednesday, was looking after three COVID-19 patients at Epping Private Hospital.
She also worked two shifts at Northern Hospital on June 11-12, with 22 staff now isolating for 14 days, as well as nine of her primary close contacts from Epping Private.
Victoria’s testing commander Jeroen Weimar (pictured) said he is ‘disappointed’ and ‘exceptionally concerned’ after a Covid-positive nurse worked across multiple hospitals
Mr Weimar said staff working in dedicated Covid-19 wards are not meant to work across multiple sites under Victorian Department of Health regulations.
‘We have very clear expectations and strong requirements of the designated Covid wards to look after our most vulnerable patients who are who are suffering with Covid,’ he said.
‘One of those expectations is that staff are dedicated to that particular ward and do not work elsewhere. That should not have been allowed to happen.
‘This appears to be an operational error being made at Epping Private … it is disappointing, I’m very unhappy about that situation.’
He added another 25 staff had isolated after the nurse’s positive test and 22 of those had returned negative tests.
The nurse also visited the northern vaccination centre on June 14 for her final dose and 30 people there – five staff and 25 patients – are isolating for 14 days.
‘This really highlights of course the importance of not seeing staff working across multiple sites where we have known Covid case,’ Mr Weimar said.
Mr Weimar confirmed the nurse was looking after three COVID-19 patients at Epping Private Hospital (pictured)
It has emerged she also worked two shifts at Northern Hospital (pictured) on June 11-12
‘I had a series of meetings with the CEOs of Northern and Epping Private (hospitals), and other supporting agencies to ensure we re-establish a far more rigorous regime to look after these Covid patients.
‘This appears to be an operational error being made by Epping Private that allowed the roster to be run in a way and the attestations for staff to be done a certain way that meant we have a staff nurse working across two different sites.
‘It should not be allowed to happen. Had it not been allowed to happen, we would not have seen the impact on Northern Hospital that we see today with 22 staff being furloughed.
‘It is disappointing, I’m very unhappy about that situation.’
Tests are underway to determine how the nurse caught the virus, with Mr Weimar noting she had looked after three COVID-19 patients from the Arcare Maidstone aged care facility at Epping Private.
Victoria recorded no new locally acquired coronavirus cases on Thursday, ahead of a further easing of restrictions across Melbourne and the regions on Friday.
Mr Weimar said she had looked after three COVID-19 patients from the Arcare Maidstone aged care facility (pictured) at Epping Private
The Health Department on Thursday confirmed just one new COVID-19 case involving a returned traveller in hotel quarantine.
The total number of active cases in the state is now 54.
Some 25,635 Victorians were tested in the 24 hours to midnight on Wednesday while 15,610 received a COVID-19 vaccine dose at state-run hubs.
It comes ahead of an easing of restrictions in Melbourne and regional Victoria from Friday.
Under the latest changes, Melbourne residents will be able to travel to regional Victoria with the removal of the 25km journey bubble, host two adult visitors plus their dependents per day and gather outdoors in groups of 20.
Masks will remain mandatory indoors but will only be required outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible.
Businesses such as gyms and indoor entertainment venues will be able to reopen, while density limits at offices, cafes, restaurants and pubs will increase.
In regional Victoria, the home visit cap will increase to five adults plus their dependents per day, while up to 50 people can gather outdoors.
Meanwhile, Acting Premier James Merlino says restrictions could ease further in a week’s time if COVID-19 cases remain low. Pictured: A lone cyclist ridies along an empty Southbank, in Melbourne, on June 11
People dine out in Melbourne’s Lygon Street cafe and restaurant strip on June 11 as the city eases restrictions after a two-week lockdown
Acting Premier James Merlino says restrictions could ease further in a week’s time if COVID-19 cases remain low.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there still may be undetected cases in the community and urged people not to slacken off on following rules.
‘It’s really tough. This is 16 months into a pandemic. There is no question that people are over this,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the state government has ramped up the range of experts who will be on hand to give advice about its planned mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility.
US immunologist and virologist Barney Graham, whose ground-breaking research on mRNA helped lead to the development of the Moderna vaccine, will join the nine-person advisory group.