Home | Aged Care Royal Commission | St. Basil’s inquest: Chief nurse grilled, surge workers quit over ‘utter exhaustion’
Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan assessed St. Basil’s as ‘fit for purpose’ without inspecting the facility. Picture: Gary Ramage/NewsWire

St. Basil’s inquest: Chief nurse grilled, surge workers quit over ‘utter exhaustion’

The surge nursing workforce brought into St. Basil’s struggled to identify residents and quit due to fear of losing their professional registration, the Victorian coroner’s court has heard.

Nurse Angela Cox volunteered to lead the agency staff sent to St. Basil’s after 117 of its workforce were marked as close contacts. By this time there were at least 50 positive cases of COVID-19 linked to the Melbourne aged care home.

Cox said that new staff were not given sufficient information to determine resident needs and were unable to access the facility’s computer system.

“The conditions at St. Basil's were far worse than anything I had contemplated,” she said.

“On one occasion, the documentation that we had access to was so inadequate I was unable to properly identify a resident who died.”

Cox claimed that the facility’s director of nursing, Vicky Kos, told surge staff not to ask questions about clinical issues and to only ask her non-clinical questions once per day.

Over 12 hours into the first handover, Cox said that she received a text message from a senior nurse telling her that he would not return the next morning.

The man cited “utter exhaustion” as well as fears for his accreditation.

Cox confirmed that around half of the surge workers had refused to come in for a second shift.

Kitchen staff employed to cook for residents were also completely unaware of any dietary requirements and served food that was “wholly inadequate” for sustenance, according to Cox.

She told the coroner that the cooks had to be told how to properly portion food and couldn’t “serve up one calamari ring and a couple of vegetables”.

Top nurse gives evidence

The country’s chief nurse was grilled over her decision to declare St. Basil’s safe after she visited on the day staff were furloughed.

Alison McMillan, the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, spent four hours observing the handover process and reported to health officials that there was a “good ratio” of nurses and care assistants.

McMillan did not speak to care staff, tour the facility or count the number of surge workers who had turned up that morning, the court heard.

“Would you think it appropriate, now knowing what you do, to at least walk around the facility and have a look and see some of the residents?” the state coroner asked McMillan on Tuesday.

“With the benefit of hindsight, absolutely,” she replied.

Peter Rozen, council assisting to the coroner, told McMillian that he had concluded the Commonwealth was responsible for St. Basil’s from the day the surge workers arrived till the facility was shutdown.

McMillan said that it was the public health unit's responsibility to ensure that St. Basil’s residents were safe after the furlough.

“There is nothing within my role, as prescribed in my job description, that makes me responsible for the operations of a residential aged care facility,” she said.

The coronial inquest into the deaths of 50 St. Basil’s residents will continue for another two weeks.

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  1. “There is nothing within my role, as prescribed in my job description, that makes me responsible for the operations of a residential aged care facility,” she said.

    Typical the Commonwealth steps in and takes over and then funnily enough no-one is responsible. Happening everyday in aged care: too many people making laws, decision and listening to other people who are all experts and haven’t worked a day in aged care.

    • It’s quite unbelievable that anyone would take 50 staff who know their residents and replace them with people who have no idea. It’s a symptom of over regulation we now have, taking carers away from the core business of caring so they can focus on covering their backside and making paperwork more important than people.

  2. The whole covid nursing home saga has been a bloody debacle from the get go. The government has failed to keep residents safe and the pretense of having a skilled surge workforce was a joke from the start. We had the states fighting the feds, saying it’s your responsibility not mine back and forth. Affected residents should have been transferred to appropriate hospital wards for advanced treatment but instead they were forced to remain in inappropriate areas affecting other vulnerable residents. In Canberra the health department said that nursing home residents weren’t allowed in hospital because the residents are federally funded and hospitals are state funded!
    Queensland managed covid perfectly, if a resident tested positive all residents were removed,tested and returned to a deep cleaned facility. Just common sense. Governments haven’t learner a thing during this pandemic, underprepared even today and they are now starting to pay themselves on the back for a job well done. What a bloody disgrace, not one person with any hands on experience and the result?…. Hundreds dead!

    • Where in Qld were all aged care residents removed from a given aged care facility in the presence of a Covid positive resident, and returned post a deep cleaning of a given aged care facility?

      What is frightening is that the Qld Health Care System is no where near ready to deal with a Covid Outbreak. Hospitals are understaffed and underfunded, aged care facilities are under staffed and under funded. There is no staff for a surge workforce. There are only a limited supply of hospital beds available for Covid patients. There is only a limited supply of ICU beds, trained ICU staff and ventilators.

      And then there is the unvaccinated public that without medical exemption refuse to be vaccinated, including registered health professionals. Scientifically proven that the unvaccinated will have 5 times greater chance of being infected with Coronavirus, and 20 times greater risk of spreading the infection, and at worse spread Covid (shed) for lengthier periods of time.

      As an Australian, I am ashamed of the level of dishonesty with state and federal politicians regarding the current and pre pandemic state of the aged and hospital health care system.

      How can the Qld Government advise that public healthcare system has capacity to effectively manage a Covid Outbreak. Does anyone listen to currently stretched and under resourced pathology, hospital, ambulance, disability and age care staff. A Covid Outbreak would be an absolute nightmare.

      As for the unvaccinated public without a medical exemption, if your choice only affected yourself, care factor is zero. However your choice to not vaccinate, and circulate in the community putting the livelihoods and health of the community knowingly at risk. Do people understand that if an individual obtained Covid, and suffered irreversible health complications or died, the impacted individual or representative of the deceased can sue an individual or company if it can be proven that all reasonable measures were not taken to prevent Covid Spread. If an individual became unwell with Covid, lost livelihood due to long term effects of Covid or a family member died of Covid, and the infection came from an unvaccinated member of the public or co-worker without a medical exemption, recent cases in Australia show that you can take legal action against a business or individual, and be compensated successfully.

      Morally, anti vaxxers clearly have to learn the hard way. I could never live with myself if I knew that my choice to not be vaccinated was solely responsible for the impact upon another’s health, at worst their death, seeing a small business owner close, suffer financial impact due to my refusal to be vaccinated. There is a concept called beneficence, for the greater good. Community responsibility, and sacrifice for all.

      In some areas of the Phillipines, Doctors are charging up to $10000 for an individual to be vaccinated. People are begging, mortgaging their homes.

      Third world countries, people are begging for Vaccines.

      The 20% of Australians that refuse to be vaccinated, and have no medical exemptions you are single handedly putting your loved ones and community at risk. The vaccine you refuse, there are millions in third world counties that are begging, desperate.

      Anti vaxxers make me sick. At worst to see a tiny infant fight to breathe with whooping cough, totally preventable but no, the selfish mother had to ignore the science and put her skewed antivaxxer beliefs first.

      Anti vaxxers do you realise that if your unvaccinated children obtain Covid from you, despite the likelihood of death is much less with the young, does not mean they will not suffer with the long term debilitating side effects of Covid Syndrome. And if your children have severe medical complications already, and you want them to have a chance at survival, if you as unvaccinated family member brings Covid into the home, the likelihood of further health complications and health decline is high. So to see antivaxxers bring their infants and children into a mass protest of unvaccinated individuals, I feel such visceral disgrace and disgust.

      Protecting my health, livelihood and loved ones is imperative to me. So already knowing of certain politicians, individuals and businesses that do support the antivaxxers’ movement, makes my life easier, and I will be avoiding them like the plague.

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