Crowley Care in Ballina has responded to allegations it was denying its staff fast masks while they were working with isolated residential patients.
Crowley Care in Ballina has responded to allegations it was denying its staff fast masks while they were working with isolated residential patients.

‘Serious’ health concerns at Ballina aged care home

THERE are concerns staff at a Ballina nursing home will walk off the job amid complaints that they are not being given face masks when caring for residents with "flu-like" symptoms.

A nurse, who wished to be unnamed, said Crowley Care residential staff were being told by managers not to wear masks because "they don't have the stock".

On March 13, a memorandum from Crowley Care managers, sighted by The Northern Star, informed its 250 staff "that if we have residents that are isolated due to flu-like symptoms, then it is the resident who is to wear the mask while staff/visitors are in their room".

"I, and numerous colleagues of mine at Crowley share a great concern regarding this," the nurse said said.

"If Crowley were to have an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, staff do not feel safe.

"We feel it is wrong."

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But Crowley chief executive Michael Penhey denied the claims the facility did not have enough stock and said all staff were given access to face masks.

"There have been no cases of COVID-19 at the residential home," he said.

"Last week three residents who presented with flu-like symptoms were isolated as a precaution.

"All were tested with negative results and are now well and out of isolation

"None of these residents met the criteria for COVID-19 testing."

Mr Penhey said during this time residents wore masks when a staff member entered the room.

"Staff had access to masks and other protective equipment at all times, in keeping with best practice and recommended clinical guidelines," he said.

But the nurse said since the COVID-19 pandemic had worsened, Crowley was continuing to tell staff not to wear their masks as they don't have the stock.

In an email to staff on March 20, sighted by The Northern Star, Crowley managers reiterated to residential staff the initial direction, that the isolated resident wears the mask, not all staff.

The nurse said some staff had contacted the NSW Nurses & Midwives Association, which directed staff not to work if Crowley did not supply them with masks.

"If there is an outbreak, I feel many staff at Crowley will walk off the job," she said.

"To know that we don't have access to the basics of that is scary.

"We want to look after our residents, but not wearing proper protective gear around those that are infected will put us and other residents at risk."

Mr Penhey said Crowley management did not believe that any staff or residents were at risk because they all "have access to the required protection equipment".

He acknowledged there was there was a global critical shortage of masks and other equipment.

"Like all other aged care and health care providers in Australia, we need more," he said.

"The Federal Government has promised more supplies will be forthcoming."

He said health and safety of staff and visitors were of upmost importance.