More than 1000 will be tested in wake of Rocky aged care outbreak

Hundreds of Rockhampton residents turned out for testing over the weekend after it emerged a local nurse had been actively contagious for days

May 18, 2020, updated May 18, 2020

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young were in central Queensland today for meetings in relation to the breach of protocols at North Rockhampton Nursing Centre.

The nurse at the state-run aged care facility was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday night. She is believed to have been infected on a recent trip to Brisbane and subsequently worked, and visited other parts of Rockhampton, while contagious.

Rockhampton, a city of more than 80,000 people, was thought to be clear of any active cases. However, the nurse had symptoms from May 5 and could have been spreading the virus days earlier. She breached protocols by not staying home, and seeking testing, as soon as her symptoms appeared.

With staff and resources redirected to central Queensland, Miles today announced the local health service investigation into the circumstances behind the breach would not be the only probe.

Miles has asked Queensland Health director-general John Wakefield to also commission an independent investigation and report back “rapidly” on any systemic issues.

“We want to understand exactly how it happened, what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how we can make sure it never happens again,” Miles said.

Fortunately, Queensland had readied staff and systems to respond to any outbreaks, and the relatively low number of new cases in recent weeks has allowed them to focus on Rockhampton.

Young said there had been 42 cases of COVID-19 in Queensland that contact-tracing had been unable to source, with the Rockhampton nurse the only one in the last fortnight.

“This is why we cannot assume we’ve beaten this virus – we haven’t,” Young said.

“It’s unlikely we will ever beat this virus, we will have to find ways of managing it (for example a vaccine).”

The centre remains in lockdown, with more than 30 relief nurses sent in to cover for staff forced into self-isolation. Some residents have been moved into single rooms, and others evacuated to Rockhampton’s two private and one public hospital, to isolate until it is known whether they have the disease.

By Sunday afternoon, the first round of testing on 193 residents and staff from the centre had returned negative results, however all will be monitored for symptoms. They have been given access to iPads to help them communicate with family and friends.

While 763 other Rockhampton residents had come forward for testing, and none returned a positive result, Young was concerned some people might still be complacent about the risks.

“I plead with you, please come forward and get tested no matter how mild your symptoms might be,” Young said.

As of Monday morning, Queensland had recorded 1,057 cases of COVID-19, with another two cases added overnight, The two women, from Brisbane and the Scenic Rim, had recently returned from overseas.

Queensland now has only 13 active cases. Four remain in hospital and of those, one is in intensive care.

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