Ruby Princess-style inquiry needed into Newmarch House

These new infections forced Anglicare’s chief executive Grant Gillard to concede there had been “failings”. “The use of PPE [personal protective equipment] is foreign to a lot of people,” Gillard told the media. Central to infection control training is how to use PPE to protect yourself and prevent transmission. The use of PPE should not be “foreign” to staff in an aged care home, particularly during a pandemic.

The proper use of PPE not only protects the staff member from infection, but also prevents transmission of the virus.

Coronavirus has devastated Newmarch Aged Care home.

Coronavirus has devastated Newmarch Aged Care home.Credit:Kate Geraghty

The federal health department offered free infection control training to all staff who work in the aged care sector. Did Anglicare mandate staff to do this training?

Another failing was not transferring residents who tested positive to COVID-19 to hospital for treatment. Denying residents access to hospital treatment is an appalling breach of their human rights.

Some health professionals believe that residents with COVID-19 should be cared for in the aged care home rather than treated in hospital. In early April, a letter was sent to staff working in aged care homes in Hunter New England, advising them not to send residents with COVID-19 to hospital. The letters said elderly people suffering coronavirus like symptoms would be “turned away” from hospitals. Hunter New England later apologised for these unauthorised letters.


When an outbreak of COVID-19 occurred in North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie, the hospitals were closed so they could be deep cleaned. Yet in Newmarch House, residents – both those who tested positive and negative – remained in the home. Not surprisingly, some families want to take their loved ones out of Newmarch House.

An inquiry is under way into the 21 deaths from COVID-19 via the Ruby Princess debacle. There needs to be a similar inquiry into the 16 deaths in Newmarch House. A public and transparent inquiry is necessary to prevent a similar tragedy happening in other aged care homes.

Dr Sarah Russell is the director of Aged Care Matters.

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