Home | Aged Care Royal Commission | St. Basil’s inquest: Managers try to avoid giving evidence
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St. Basil’s inquest: Managers try to avoid giving evidence

Managers who ran St. Basil’s nursing home in Melbourne have asked to be excused from giving evidence following weeks of accusations that they were negligent.

Vicki Kos and Kon Kontis were both in charge of the Fawkner nursing home when the COVID-19 virus spread through the facility in July 2020. 

A barrister for both parties has asked Coroner Judge Cain to excuse them from appearing in court on the grounds that they may incriminate themselves.

Both were due to give evidence early next week.

Multiple witnesses, including St. Basil's staff and surge workers, have accused the facility's management of poor communication and ignoring infection control practices.

The inquest has heard claims that Kos refused to hand over crucial patient information to replacement workers and ignored staff when they brought up early safety concerns.

“Staff members were quite concerned about how we were going to care for residents who had COVID or what the plan was. Vicki just laughed at staff concerns,” said personal care worker James Mee.

One of the surge workers, Heleni Bagiartaskis, said that Kos refused to take phone calls about the care of the residents after being stood down.

“The message though was, ‘It wasn’t our decision, we don’t agree with the decision, therefore it’s not our problem,'" said Bagiartaskis.

The families of deceased residents are expected to oppose the application, which will be considered by Judge Cain in the coming days.

Families continue to come forward

Bereaved family members who lost loved ones during the outbreak have continued to appear in front of the inquest this week.

Androula Aristidou gave evidence about her 98-year-old mother, Archondia Savva, who died while in hospital in late July 2020. 

Savva had been taken to hospital after testing positive for COVID-19 but was sent back to St Basil’s after doctors confirmed she didn’t have any serious symptoms. 

After days of unanswered calls from the facility, Aristidou said that she eventually received a call informing her that her mother would be sent back to the hospital. 

“The last words I heard from my mum [was that] she was in pain," she told the court.

“It broke my heart to see that all she wanted was her family and we couldn’t do anything to help.”

When Aristidou spoke with the medical staff at Epworth hospital, they told her that her mother had come in “starving” and very “thirsty”.

Nurses and doctors were shocked that her mother had died due to the fact she had minimal symptoms of COVID-19, she said.

"Once the government took over, the level of neglect was at another level where not even animals should be treated like this," she said.

Today, the court is expected to hear from Victorian health officials and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson.

The inquest into the deadliest COVID-19 outbreak in an Australian aged care facility will continue until next week.

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