Greek Australians Shocked at Twelve Deaths in Church-Sponsored Care Home

Greek-Australians continue to express outrage, sadness and anger over what is now twelve deaths suffered by their tight-knit community at St. Basil’s Home for Aged Care in Melbourne.

According to media reports, the entire state of Victoria has experienced 92 fatalities from the coronavirus and fully twenty of the individuals were from the Greek community.

Relatives of the deceased are now speaking out angrily, charging that the appropriate safety measures were not taken by workers at the facility and that, even worse, the situation continued to deteriorate after the federal government’s workers stepped in and took over the care home.

St. Basil’s Home for Aged Care, Melbourne. File Photo

When St. Basil’s was asked if they had a comment regarding the situation, chairman Konstantin Kontis released a statement online, available here, which attempted to quell the rising anger of the bereaved families.

The chairman maintained that the facility’s staff had indeed followed the appropriate protocols, including the wearing of masks, and the home had let the community know the particulars regarding the outbreak as it was unfolding, beginning on July 9.

Relations between the residents’ families and the officials from the care home had worsened to the point that a meeting was organized by the Australian government to clear the air on Tuesday and to establish what would be happening going forward regarding the care for residents.

A statement released by the home said “The meeting was an opportunity to discuss our shared concerns which are the result of the outbreak of COVID-19 in our facility, the interim measures introduced and also our acknowledging of and agreeing with a notice to agree issued by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

“We have immediately implemented the requirements within the notice as agreed with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, relating to the monitoring and management of the COVID-19 outbreaks at Basil’s and we will continue to cooperate fully with both levels of government so that we can address the needs of our residents and their families.”

“At present we are fully co-operating with the current management of the home which has been brought in by the Commonwealth Government and who are now in control of the home from the date that we had to leave. We are pleased to see many of our Covid-19 infected residents are being transferred to hospitals for further treatment. We await the test results of our employees and as soon as they are cleared we are eager to return and continue in our mission of caring for our residents.”

The families continue to charge that the residents were subjected to even worse care after the federal handover, saying that their loved ones had been left in soiled beds and that they had not received assistance with eating, drinking water or the taking of their medicines.

Media reports also say that some residents were assured that their loved ones, whom they were not able to visit at the home due to the coronavirus, were still at the home when in fact they had been transferred to hospitals in critical condition.

Federal Aged Care Commissioner and Australian Senator Richard Colbeck, representing Tasmania, told ABC Radio Melbourne of the care home outbreak “There’s a lot of concern, fear and passion in the community about it.” He added that he hopes there will be an investigation into the details of the outbreak while memories are still fresh and the details are more easily recalled.

“I was on a Zoom meeting with (St Basil’s) families on Sunday night and there were quite a few questions and those people deserve to have their questions answered,” Colbeck added, before noting that the facility has been marred form accepting patients for now.

The Commission released a statement on the incident which said  that there were “ongoing challenges apparent in implementing an effective outbreak response in a timely manner, and in fulfilling responsibilities to provide timely communication relating to the care of individual residents.”

Australia-wide, more than 800 active cases of the coronavirus have been linked to aged care facilities. Over two hundred of these victims have been transferred to hospitals since the outbreak first occurred.