Premier of Australia's New South Wales (NSW) state Gladys Berejiklian has described the COVID-19 related deaths of 13 people at a Sydney nursing home as "horrific" and called for a federal inquiry into the facility's handling of the matter.
Berejiklian told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Friday that the operators of Newmarch House aged care home in Western Sydney were mishandling what is Australia's second largest virus cluster, and that the federal government should intervene.
"What's happening there isn't acceptable and unfortunately you do notice a difference in the way people who run these aged care homes across the nation are dealing with the issue and unfortunately this particular operator has been left wanting on a number of levels," Berejiklian said.
Health authorities confirmed on Friday that a 74-year-old man had died at Newmarch House after contracting the virus, taking the total number of deaths there to 13. Also on Friday, three new cases were confirmed, raising the total to 59 cases, including 22 staff and 37 residents.
The outbreak at the facility has been attributed to a COVID-19 infected nurse who worked six shifts despite displaying mild symptoms. The facility's first fatality, a 93-year-old-man, was confirmed on April 18, with new infections and deaths quickly accruing since then.
On Thursday the Sydney Morning Herald reported that communication with the families of elderly residents had been inconsistent, leaving many in the dark and extremely worried for the welfare of their relatives.
Berejiklian affirmed her support for the national cabinet's stance that families should not be prevented from visiting their loved ones in aged care during the pandemic.
"Often cutting off that human contact or that visit can be detrimental to the health of the residents, but also their family," she said.
"This is a terrible reminder of how vulnerable older Australians are to the virus and that is something that we need to consider."