The first public hearing against St Basil’s Aged Care facility in Fawkner is set to take place on 15 November.

Greek Australian lawyer John Karantzis of Carbone Lawyers told Neos Kosmos that he asked for the Coroners Court to avoid further delays.

“We are representing relatives of victims and a coronial inquest will be completed as soon as possible,” he said, representing 66 families.

“It is imperative that no further delays occur,” he told the court.

“We are talking about real people that were in the hands of a trusted facility that were left to starve and die,” he said.

St Basil’s is being accused of negligence when COVID-19 swept through the facility. A total of 50 of the 117 residents died, of which 45 fell victim to COVID-19.

The coronial inquest hearing into the St Basil’s coronavirus cluster began on Tuesday with a listing of the names of every resident who lost their lives in July and August during the second wave of COVID-19 in 2020.

Peter Rozen QC told the directions hearing that the numbers alone “do not begin to convey the trauma and grief”, while also pointing out to “the enormous impact on their family and members”, according to an investigation report.

READ MORE: St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner in the eye of the hurricane during COVID-19

At the hearing, details came to light of the first infected staff member of St Basil’s, who worked two shifts without PPE though her family had “sore throats”. The staff member got tested on 5 July and returned a positive test on 9 July. Colleagues who worked with her continued to be present at the nursing home.

Furthermore, the DHHS did not alert the Commonwealth Department of Health when St Basil’s called the Victorian DHHS hotline on 9 July, and a staff notice of the positive case wasn’t sent out until 13 July even though a worker from the Commonwealth Aged C are Regulator (ACQSC) was told on 10 July about the case “during a lengthy telephone conversation” in a routine inquiry. The information was not passed on.

There were massive delays, according to Mr Rozen, who pointed to four days having been lost while the virus was sweeping through the home resulting in a further seven staff and 11 residents infected by 17 July.

The court heard that family members tried to get in touch with loved ones but nobody answered any of the numbers which they had.

READ MORE: The majority of elderly clients in the care of St Basil’s and Fronditha are vaccinated

John Karantzis of Carbone Lawyers. Photo: Supplied

The St Basil’s Outbreak Management Team was put together on 20 July and Mr Rozen said the plan to replace all staff at the nursing home was viewed by Northern Health doctors as a “shocking idea”.

The decision to remove those familiar to residents and replace the workforce, under the direction of health officials, on 22 July caused problems with the replacement team made up of mostly nurses who were only registered that year and the most experienced nurse had two years practical experience.

These nurses had never before worked in aged care and didn’t know how to clean or shower a resident, the court heard with staff reporting, “We literally went from crisis to crisis.” As a result the new staff were overwhelmed, about a dozen did not go to work within two days after having been appointed to their task, and were “deeply traumatised by the experience”.

Some of the residents were found to have suffered “dehydration and deconditioning” once they were transferred to hospital between 24 and 26 July. As a result, many died.

The new chefs too had problems as they had no files for dietary needs and no experience cooking modified meals.

Mr Rozen said the inquest would look at whether the “Commonwealth left hand knew what the state right hand was doing”, when it begins in November.

St Basil’s in Randwick

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) inspected St Basil’s Home Randwick, Sydney, in June and has taken compliance action against the home, reports the Daily Telegraph. 

The inspection found that the home was non-compliant with 35 of the 42 key benchmarks the commission uses to assess the wellbeing of residents, including non-compliance in issues of consumer dignity and choice, support for daily living, adequate food, and systems for handling feedback and complaints. Inspectors found that lunch services in a dementia unit consisted of puree and gravy.

The facility was found wanting in its care and services in relation to falls management, deteriorating mental health and pain.

Following problems in dealing with COVID-19 found in Fawkner, the Randwick facility also found that it was lacking in its COVID-19 outbreak management plan, especially in regards to resources and information to assist non-English speaking residents.

“At St Basil’s Homes NSW/ACT Randwick we’ve begun introducing adjustments to close the gaps identified across the aged care quality standards,” a statement reads from St Basil’s Home Acting Chief Executive Spiro Stavlis, who told The Daily Telegraph the home was committed to addressing the areas of non-compliance.

“It has been a challenging period in the aged care sector, and we understand that there is significant trust placed in us to meet resident expectations and those of the regulatory system.

“This is not an outcome that we wanted for our home or our residents because at St Basil’s Homes NSW/ACT we pride ourselves on providing quality services under the values we hold dear, for the health, dignity and safety of our cherished residents.”