Sumary of ‘Awful trade-offs’: Brett Sutton ‘didn’t ask’ if furloughing St Basil’s staff would put residents at risk:
- Victoria’s chief health officer has told a coronial inquest he was not aware senior clinical staff at St Basil’s aged care home had raised serious concerns about the safety of residents if a direction from the state government to furlough all staff amid a Covid outbreak was followed.
- Victoria’s health department on 19 July ordered that anyone who worked at the home between 1-15 July be declared a close contact and quarantine.
- But the inquest heard the federal government struggled to source replacement workers due to outbreaks elsewhere.
- The inquest is exploring whether there were alternatives open to the state and federal governments other than furloughing and replacing all staff.
- It’s also examining the adequacy of the replacement workforce deployed at St Basil’s and whether the state and federal governments communicated with each other appropriately.
- Victoria’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said senior staff from his department never told him about concerns raised by commonwealth staff and doctors at the home that it would be nearly impossible to pull together a replacement workforce – and that they feared residents would be left without basic care including food and medications.
- Counsel assisting the inquest Peter Rozen QC put it to Sutton on Friday that “you were not told that there was going to be any fundamental problem [replacing the staff] .
- He said he could not say what proportion of the 94 staff ultimately infected were part of the original workforce or the replacement workforce.