The death toll from the devastating flu outbreak in a Wangaratta nursing home has risen to eight.
The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Tuesday an eighth person had died following the influenza outbreak at St John’s Retirement Village.
St John’s board chairman Bishop John Parkes said the facility remained on lockdown. “At present, we have five cases still under quarantine and one further death,” he said.
“The health and welfare of all our residents remains our priority and we continue to keep all families updated as the situation continues.”
Bishop Parkes reiterated that St John’s had acted appropriately to an unprecedented flu outbreak.
“Our infection control consultant remains onsite and continues to ensure we absolutely adhere to all Department of Health procedures,” he said. “The department has advised that it is satisfied with our initial and continued management of the outbreak.”
Dr Sutton’s said his office was first notified on August 14, two days before the first of the eight residents died.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has told the ABC the information was only passed onto his department on August 31 – the day before it was released publicly.
“I’m deeply concerned about it, that one level would know and then not pass on those details for 20 days at a critical time,” he said.
“The best thing to do is to take immediate steps within any nursing home environment to ensure that there are full and appropriate quarantine and protection measures, and to contact the Commonwealth as soon as possible.”
The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency will conduct the review into St John’s.
“We will ask all of the questions without fear or favour, because frankly these are senior Australians who have given an enormous amount to the country, and the risks to them, because many of them are frail, are significant and great, and my view is that we just have to continue to do more,” Mr Hunt said.
Indi MP Cathy McGowan expressed her sympathy to the victims, families and staff affected by the flu outbreak.
“This is a very sad and distressing situation, and a loss for the whole community,” she said.
“The investigation is now under way and I will continue to stay in touch with all aged-care service providers.”
She did not say if she supported Mr Hunt’s proposal to make the flu vaccine compulsory for aged-care workers.