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Friday, December 1, 2023

Inquest hears St Basil’s struggled to find enough staff

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Aged care providers struggled to meet nursing home needs as more and more staff refused to work in COVID-19 positive workplaces, an inquest has heard.

St Basil’s Home or the Aged lost all of its staff after they were declared close contacts in July last year, during an outbreak that claimed the lives of 45 residents.

The inquest into their deaths by Victorian State Coroner John Cain has heard the surge workforce to replace them should have been three times regular staffing levels.

Neil Callagher, who headed up the Commonwealth’s Aged Care COVID-19 Implementation Branch, said finding staff wasn’t easy.

“We have struggled to meet that need as more and more staff refuse to work at COVID-19 positive sites,” he wrote in an email at the time.

Additionally, he was trying to draw staff from the same pool of workers as hospitals were.

He suggested Victoria’s Department of Health may need to identify capacity at hospitals to reduce the number of residents at St Basil’s “to give them a fighting chance”.

“Our concern was about not just our ability to make up the actual number required but the actual type of staff that would be required, particularly around clinical governance,” he said on Wednesday.

“Once that is removed, the risk to resident welfare increases significantly.”

Callagher’s suggestion of moving residents to hospitals wasn’t taken up, and he says while he escalated it within the commonwealth health department he believes the roadblocks were within the Victorian department.

“You would have to ask the representatives of the Victorian government,” he said.

His evidence is continuing.


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