“The process for screening and testing meant that there was a lag before it was identified that this person was COVID-positive,” he said.
The patient had interacted with “a lot of other patients” by that point, Dr Lyons said, noting the interaction with other patients and staff in such a unit was considered important from a therapeutic perspective.
Dr Lyons said, after the Nepean outbreak, rapid antigen tests were introduced for acute inpatients at mental health units before admission and every three days due to concern that previous screening process and questions asked to determine if a person needed a test had the “potential for someone who was asymptomatic to be admitted”.
Data published by the NSW Mental Health Living Longer Project last month found public mental health service users in the state had three to four times greater risk of admission for vaccine-preventable respiratory infections, including influenza and Hepatitis B, than the general population.
Psychiatrist Angelo Virgona, chair of the NSW branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, said vaccination rates for mental health inpatients were “variable from service to service”.
“There has been a concerted effort from mental health services to have those with severe mental health conditions vaccinated as quickly as possible. However, there are specific challenges when people are unwell and unable to consent.”
Last month, a patient who was being treated in the Kiloh Ward at Prince of Wales Hospital tested
positive to COVID-19, a South Eastern Sydney Local Health District spokesperson confirmed.
“All staff working on the Kiloh Ward are fully vaccinated. Staff and patients who were on the ward at the same time were tested for COVID-19, isolated and have returned negative test results to date,” the spokesperson said.
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