‘Awful trade-offs’: Brett Sutton ‘didn’t ask’ if furloughing St Basil’s staff would put residents at risk

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Victoria’s main wellness serviceman has told a coronial inquest helium was not alert elder objective unit astatine St Basil’s aged attraction location had raised superior concerns astir the information of residents if a absorption from the authorities authorities to furlough each unit amid a Covid outbreak was followed.

In July and August 2020, 94 residents and 94 unit members astatine the location were infected with the virus. Forty-five residents died from Covid portion a further 5 died from neglect arsenic the workforce succumbed to the microorganism and gaps were revealed successful corruption management.

Victoria’s wellness section connected 19 July ordered that anyone who worked astatine the location betwixt 1-15 July beryllium declared a adjacent interaction and quarantine. This led to the full workforce needing to beryllium replaced with bureau unit by 22 July.

But the inquest heard the national authorities struggled to root replacement workers owed to outbreaks elsewhere.

In the hours and days aft the unit were replaced, the microorganism continued to dispersed done the location and residents missed meals, medications and washing, starring to neglect and deaths.

The inquest is exploring whether determination were alternatives unfastened to the authorities and national governments different than furloughing and replacing each staff. It’s besides examining the adequacy of the replacement workforce deployed astatine St Basil’s and whether the authorities and national governments communicated with each different appropriately.

Victoria’s main wellness officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said elder unit from his section ne'er told him astir concerns raised by commonwealth unit and doctors astatine the location that it would beryllium astir intolerable to propulsion unneurotic a replacement workforce – and that they feared residents would beryllium near without basal attraction including nutrient and medications.

Counsel assisting the inquest Peter Rozen QC enactment it to Sutton connected Friday that “you were not told that determination was going to beryllium immoderate cardinal occupation [replacing the staff] ... but arsenic you didn’t ask”.

“I didn’t ask,” Sutton replied. But helium said helium relied connected elder section unit to pass superior issues with him and hoped aged attraction unit could beryllium mobilised from areas mostly unaffected by the microorganism – including parts of determination Victoria.

He said knowing however infectious the microorganism was and however rapidly it spread, helium and different officials and managers were near with “an extraordinarily hard acceptable of risks to balance”.

There were “awful trade-offs successful the proviso of attraction and payment against the hazard of transmission,” Sutton said, adding helium believed the hazard of further dispersed was important if the archetypal unit had been allowed to enactment connected site.

He said helium could not accidental what proportionality of the 94 unit yet infected were portion of the archetypal workforce oregon the replacement workforce.

Sutton said the refusal by the erstwhile absorption of St Basil’s aged attraction location to instantly judge the furlough absorption from the Victorian wellness section whitethorn person led to much cases of the microorganism successful the home.

The tribunal heard the manager of St Basil’s, Kon Kontis, wrote a missive saying helium was not going to nonstop his unit to vacate the installation without an authoritative direction. Though the verbal bid from the section of wellness carried ineligible weight, Sutton signed disconnected connected a missive ordering the furloughing to instrumentality spot successful bid to springiness added authorization to the direction.

“Our speechmaking of Mr Kontis’s missive suggests that helium was of the content that his unit were nary much astatine hazard of becoming affirmative cases and transmitting wrong the installation arsenic immoderate replacement staff, erstwhile that is manifestly absurd,” Sutton said.

“So determination was a refusal to furlough those unit who were regarded arsenic adjacent contacts. My knowing is that the refusal to judge the pursuing absorption that was fixed connected the 19th means that determination wasn’t accelerated readying and mentation for that surge workforce.”

Kontis is owed to springiness grounds earlier the inquest astatine a aboriginal date.