WorkSafe Victoria issues notices to at least 30 aged care providers for COVID-19 breaches

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In a first for the COVID-19 pandemic, Worksafe Victoria has issued notices to at least 30 aged care providers overseeing about 50 homes, requiring them to prove they did not breach Occupational Health and Safety laws during the virus outbreaks.

Legal advice prepared for some of the aged care operators, which have received OH&S notices compelling them to provide information and documents, warned operators found guilty of breaching workplace laws that led to the deaths of residents could be charged under Victoria’s new workplace manslaughter laws.

The laws, which are not retrospective, came into effect on 1 July last year. Operators face maximum fines of $16.5 million, and executives face jail terms of up to 25 years.

News of the WorkSafe investigations comes in the second of six weeks of coronial inquest hearings into what led to Australia’s most deadly aged care outbreak at St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Melbourne’s north. That outbreak began last July, and finished in August with 45 residents dead.

The Age independently verified those among the list of providers issued with notices include Estia Health Aged Care, Japara Healthcare and Benetas.

Benetas St Georges in Altona Meadows has had 70 COVID-19 cases in total, including 38 staff and 32 residents. 12 of the infected residents died. Japara has had outbreaks in eight different Victorian facilities, with the highest number of resident deaths at Japara Goonawarra in Sunbury where 20 people died.