The Victorian hotel quarantine disaster of 2020 lead to 801 deaths, mostly in aged care homes. The Victorian government blamed those aged care deaths on the Commonwealth. ‘It’s not our fault’ was the message from the Victorian Premier’s media-manipulation team. But now the facts and truth are coming out.
This week a coronial inquest into the 50 deaths at St Basil’s aged care home began. The evidence from just the opening day is startling.
According to media coverage a report from an independent expert in disaster and emergency health said that a lack of coordination between state and federal health departments was a “root cause of the tragedy at St Basil’s”. This shows a shared responsibility between the Victorian and Commonwealth departments.
But there were not large numbers of aged care deaths in other states. So why Victoria?
The coronial inquest gives a better understanding. The inquest heard that Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, ordered the removal of St Basil’s staff. Victoria’s health department, Commonwealth health officials and local medical staffed called this decision a “shocking idea”.
The head lawyer assisting the coroner said that this decision by Brett Sutton was made “…despite all present apparently being aware of a risk that the replacement workforce may be inadequate to meet the statutory care standards”. And this is what happened.
The new workforce, hastily bought in, were understaffed, not familiar with the patients’ needs and overwhelmed. The situation is described as “shocking” with staff in tears, “… positive and negative patients mingling freely, PPE not being cleared…” and more. The consequence was the deaths.
The head lawyer said the staff “…were operating within a wholly inadequate governance and management structure.”
This is consistent with the finding of the Coate Inquiry into the 2020 Hotel Quarantine disaster where the “…disaster that tragically came to be…” was caused by “…lack of proper leadership and oversight…”
That is, it was the inept, incompetent, chaotic management shambles by the Victorian government that resulted in the virus escaping the quarantine hotels. The coroner’s inquiry is pointing to the same managerial incompetence resulting in the deaths at St Basil’s aged care home. The Victorian government was intimately involved at each step. Brett Sutton was a top, key decision-maker at each step.
WorkSafe Victoria is prosecuting the Victorian Health Department over the quarantine disaster. They are not prosecuting any individuals. We continue our push to require WorkSafe to prosecute responsible individuals. WorkSafe’s prosecution of the Health Department demonstrates that our 18-month campaign (to date) is valid.
We are in deep strategic discussions with lawyers. ‘Robust’ correspondence with WorkSafe continues. We hope to let you know of next steps in the near future.