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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Nurse tells inquest St Basil’s emergency staff handover was ‘chaos’

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A former nurse at a Victorian aged care home where 45 residents died of COVID-19 has told an inquest she could never bring herself to work in the industry again.

Milena Avramovic was the deputy director of nursing at St Basil’s Home for the Aged for five years until August last year.

Forty-five residents at the Fawkner facility died from COVID-19 in July 2020 after regular workers were sent home and replaced by inexperienced agency staff.

There were at least 50 positive cases connected to the home when St Basil’s staff were declared close contacts, and state and federal health authorities began working on a plan to replace the entire workforce.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to work in aged care again,” Avramovic told the Victorian Coroners Court on Monday.

“What happened at St Basil’s … it destroyed me psychologically, emotionally, socially and financially.

“I just hope that what tragically happened, that we can learn a lesson from this and that it is never repeated. This wound will never heal.”

Before the pandemic, new staff would be followed or “buddied up” with a more experienced staff member for two or three days when they joined St Basil’s, Avramovic told the inquest.

But nothing like this was possible when the facility was handed over to an emergency workforce on July 22.

“It was chaos – there was so much to do,” Avramovic said.

“We all worked so hard under huge pressure.

“We were snowed under.”

Avramovic also said she wished that either the state or federal health department gave St Basil’s specific directions to test all residents who lived in areas where a COVID-positive staff member may have been after a first case was reported.

Earlier on Monday, Nicholas Barboussas told the inquest a person from St Basil’s communications team – based in Adelaide – rang him to say his elderly father was safe at the home.

But Barboussas knew his 79-year-old father Paul was in fact dying at the Northern Hospital.

“It was probably one of the most distressing moments in this saga,” he said.

“Dad was fighting for his life and I’m getting told he was safely tucked away in his room.

“I was absolutely gobsmacked. It was quite a shattering moment.”

The inquest continues before Victorian State Coroner John Cain.

AAP

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