St Basil’s inquest: Home declared “fit for purpose” after first COVID-19 death

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The Federal Government’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer gave the green light to St Basil’s Homes for the Aged shortly after the first death in its COVID outbreak last year, a coronial inquest has heard.

Professor Alison McMillan (pictured) visited the Melbourne home on 22 July 2020, the day following the first death at the site from COVID-19, when Dr Brendan Murphy, the Federal Chief Medical Officer at the time, was considering evacuating the 117 residents.

Despite her declaration that there was “no need for a significant evacuation of positive residents to hospital”, the outbreak would go on to claim the lives of 50 residents, 45 of whom died with the virus itself.

The six-week inquest into the outbreak at St Basil’s, which began on Monday and has heard from families of the deceased, also saw a letter from a Victorian Department of Health employee sent to inspect the home on 24 July, days after Professor McMillan’s visit, which described conditions at the home as “horrific”.

“I cried several times on-site and I’m pretty tough. We had one person pass away, we expect two or three more overnight. They have written many residents off as palliative.

“The place is a mess. It is not stable or improving,” the employee said, noting as well that there were no doffing stations for personal protective equipment; no bins were provided for yellow waste bags; and clients’ meals, medications, and hygiene were not being attended to.

“We had to manage the staff, none were capable of standing up as a leader and were in no condition psychologically to do so,” the email read.

The inquest is continuing under State Coroner John Cain.