The Malta Independent 25 May 2020, Monday

'No other patients, staff at Residenza Sant' Anna tested positive for virus' - Steward Health Care

Albert Galea Thursday, 9 April 2020, 18:25 Last update: about 3 months ago

No other patients residing at or staff working at Residenza Sant' Anna in Gozo - the elderly home where the country's first COVID-19 victim lived - have tested positive for the virus, while any staff who were at risk of exposure have been placed in quarantine, a spokesperson for Steward Health Care told The Malta Independent.

On Wednesday night, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced news of the first death associated with Covid-19 - a 92-year-old woman who suffered from several medical conditions and lived at Residenza Sant' Anna in Gozo.

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Since then, another patient - a 79-year-old man - passed away after testing positive for the virus at Karin Grech Hospital. The total number of people tested positive for the virus has, as of Thursday, risen to 337 - 318 of which remain active.

Residenza Sant' Anna is an elderly home which is adjoined with Gozo General Hospital and is, like the hospital it is tied to, now owned and operated by Steward Healthcare.

The Malta Independent on Thursday sent several questions to Steward Healthcare, with the first being whether any investigations were carried out on how the woman who passed away had contracted the virus and, if so, what the outcome was.

A spokesperson for Steward told this newsroom that full investigations including contact tracing of staff and patients has indeed been carried out under the guidance of the Superintendence of Public Health, and it resulted that no other patients or staff have tested positive for the virus after being swabbed. Furthermore, the spokesperson said, all staff members at risk of exposure have been quarantined.

Asked whether there is any risk of transmission to other residents living at the elderly home, the spokesperson replied that "unfortunately, anyone carrying the virus may be completely asymptomatic, so the risk is always there."

"However full precautions are being taken to minimise this risk as much as possible", the spokesperson added.

This reflects what the Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said in a press conference on Wednesday when the woman's death was announced, with Gauci answering the question as to how the woman could have contracted the virus by explaining that people living in homes could contract the virus from staff members or visitors, and that the virus may be present on people who are not showing symptoms.

In this case, Steward had stopped visitors to Residenza Sant' Anna effective from 12 March with the exception of patients who were to be administered their last rites.

It remains unclear how the 92-year-old who passed away had contracted the virus.

Asked what procedures had been adopted by Steward Healthcare in order to prevent the transmission of the virus to residents of the home, the spokesperson replied that "full precautions were and continue to be taken with regards to infection control measures, including staff training and appropriate PPEs as per protocols established in line with Infection Control."

He also noted that all workers are temperature scanned prior to entering the hospital grounds - which include the residence.

Lack of space, facilities means carers at Residenza Sant' Anna not residing with elderly patients - Steward

Unlike what has happened with other elderly homes, carers and workers inside Residenza Sant' Anna have not moved in with their patients.

Explaining this point in answer to one of this newsroom's questions, Steward's spokesperson explained that "this is a large ward with 81 residents and an integral part of the Gozo General Hospital. There are no facilities or space for staff to reside within the ward as the ward is full."

Across the country more than 500 employees moved in with residents in eight facilities for the elderly operated by CareMalta towards the end of March when the spread of the virus began to intensify. The move was made so to minimize risk of transmission of the virus to the elderly, who are especially vulnerable to its effects.

On Wednesday, Family Minister Michael Falzon said that there were no COVID-19 cases at any of the government-run homes for the elderly, including St. Vincent de Paul, or any of the facilities where it buys beds.

In Wednesday's press conference, Fearne said that around 10 days before then an agreement had been reached between Steward Health Care and the Gozo Ministry so that a building in Victoria could be used as a home for the elderly. The plan remains the same and the patients from Dar Sant' Anna will be moved over the coming days, he said.

Asked about this, the Steward Healthcare spokesperson said that the move is planned for "next week."

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