On Tuesday morning, Victoria’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos choked back the tears as she spoke about the distressing situation at St Basil’s Home for Aged Care in Fawkner and the impact it has had on the Greek community.
A woman who died at St Basil’s on Monday bought the tally of deaths from within the church-run facility to nine. These deaths at St Basil’s – in addition to four deaths in the wider community at large – have sent ripples through the Greek community, which is one where elders hold respect and are cared for.
St Basil’s sources from within the facility told Neos Kosmos that the home has nearly emptied as 80 residents were transferred to various hospitals around Melbourne.
Ministerial sources from the Department of Health told Neos Kosmos that there are currently 36 residents suffering from dementia who have tested negative for COVID-19 still at the facility.
On Monday, ambulance services lined up outside the Fawkner facility to transport residents to various hospitals around the country. Concerned relatives also gathered outside in the hope of catching a glimpse of their relatives from a distance as communication with them has been cut since Wednesday when the federal government took over the management of the aged care facility.
Nikolas Barbarousas told Neos Kosmos that his father, Apostolis Barbarousas, who died in hospital at the age of 70, had been a resident of St Basil’s for the past six years and that he had been satisfied. “Communication became problematic and during the last week it was tragic,” he said, adding that the change in management after authorities took over from St Basil’s did not help matters. “Imagine, my father was fighting for his life in hospital and I received a phone-call from the nursing home notifying me he was in his room at St Basil’s. When I asked the call-centre they told me he was in… Adelaide”.
In other cases, relatives were being given incorrect information about their loved ones.
Initially, authorities did not want to transport residents to hospitals but dozens were transported to hospitals after the situation took a turn for the worse. In many cases, relatives were kept in the dark as to the location of the residents.
The relatives cast blame on the management of St Basil’s for not taking protective measures to ensure the safety of their loved ones from COVID-19, however they have just as many complaints following the federal government’s handling of the situation and replacement of staff members from the facility.
The condition of some of those is particularly serious and it is possible that more lives will be mourned from within the coming days.
St Basil’s is under the aegis of the Archdiocese of Australia, which states it is cooperating with the government. The church released a message last night stating its cooperation as well as its commitment to “ensuring that the pastoral needs of each resident and their families are met. Clergy will continue to facilitate pastoral interactions with families affected, using modern technology, to provide comfort.”