A woman whose mother died from COVID-19 after living at St Basil’s says excusing the nursing home’s operators from an inquest would be a “slap in the face”.
Kon Kontis and Vicki Kos were running the Melbourne aged care home in July last year when a COVID-19 outbreak led to the deaths of 45 residents.
An application was made last week to excuse the pair from giving evidence before a five-week inquest and is still being considered by Victorian State Coroner John Cain.
But Helen Karikas, whose mother Vicky Patsakos died in August 2020 after she contracted COVID-19 while living at St Basil’s, on Friday said allowing this request would be a “slap in the face”.
“What transpired should never have happened,” Karikas told the inquest.
“The evidence has demonstrated how many opportunities were missed to prevent this tragedy.
“I’m calling on you now – please do not allow Vicki Kos and Kon Kontis to be excused from giving evidence.
“If they do not take the stand it will be a final slap in the face for everyone.”
Outbreak managers replaced the entire St Basil’s staff with an emergency workforce on July 22 last year, during Melbourne’s second wave.
Within hours of the handover, inexperienced nursing staff were struggling to care for the mostly Greek-speaking residents, who had already missed meals and medicine.
No Greek interpreters were provided to assist the new workforce until July 27, the inquest was told on Thursday.
One of the replacement workers, Robert McDougall, broke down as he recounted being given nothing more than the address of St Basil’s before reporting for his first shift.
There was no handover process, no information about how many residents had COVID-19, no resident records and no names attached to their rooms.
“There was nothing,” McDougall told the inquest.
“They genuinely didn’t have information to give.”
McDougall said many residents appeared dehydrated and struggled to swallow.
He thought some were at risk of choking.
Residents also were not being served food properly.
“There was just no one running anything,” McDougall said.
He told management there weren’t enough staff at the Fawkner facility and later discovered that many of those who were there were inexperienced nursing students.
“If a fire broke we would have had no hope,” he said.
St Basil’s recorded its first COVID case on July 9.
Senior doctors warned the afternoon before the July 22 handover that replacing regular staff was a “shocking idea” and the plan would turn out to be “a disaster”, the inquest was told previously.
The hearing continues.