A COVID-19 outbreak at St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner, Melbourne cost the lives of 45 residents several of whom Greek Australian.
Meanwhile, hundreds of residents and staff tested positive while management evaded questions and claimed protocol was being followed.
The extent of the tragedy led to an inquest originally limited to five fatalities that grew to encompass all COVID-19 deaths at St Basil’s. To answer the many questions that the inquest has brought to the surface Victorian State Coroner Judge John Cain will delve further into the shortcomings of the facility on Monday 15 November in a public hearing.
Sixty-four witnesses and over a dozen family members of residents will appear before the proceedings in an attempt to examine how St Basil’s management and staff prepared for the COVID-19. Peter Rozen QC is assisting the coroner in the investigation.
The coroner will also investigate their response when the pandemic hit, the timeliness of information provided to staff, residents and families, whether the state and federal governments coordinated their response to the outbreak appropriately, and the adequacy of the replacement workforce deployed to St Basil’s, among other issues.
The evidence comprises a 7000 page-long report which includes an analysis by global infectious diseases expert Dr Ian Norton on top of the findings of several independent experts. Norton has previously worked for the World Health Organisation, leading the response to outbreaks of Ebola, diphtheria and measles.
The hearing will also include a Guardian Australia analysis of the 10 aged care homes worst affected by coronavirus in Victoria.
The investigation, conducted in September 2020, found that three were controlled by two large companies, which between them received more than $1.45bn in government funding over the past two years and paid out dividends to their shareholders totalling $77m.
Furthermore, a civil lawsuit is also underway in Victoria’s Supreme Court motioned by family members of the deceased that allege there was a failure to provide a safe environment.