Federal Government wasn’t notified of St Basil’s Fawkner coronavirus outbreak for nearly a week

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Five days passed before the federal government was notified of a COVID outbreak at the St Basil’s aged-care home in Melbourne, an inquiry revealed.

A Senate inquiry was launched on Tuesday to investigate the government’s pandemic response to the COVID-19 outbreak at aged-care homes. The inquiry found multiple failures regarding the communication delivered from St Basil’s aged-care home to the federal government.

“At almost every step of the growing outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes, the Morrison government has been behind the eight ball and the consequences are sadly tragic,” opposition aged-care spokeswoman Julie Collins said on Tuesday.

The St Basil’s providers were supposed to notify federal authorities and the state public health unit within half an hour of learning of an infection.

Senator Colbeck acknowledged several issues with the response to the St Basil’s outbreak.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Both Senator Colbeck and Professor Murphy confirmed media reports that despite the first COVID-19 case at St Basil’s being identified on July 9, the Federal Government was not advised of the outbreak until July 14.

“The board chair became aware on the ninth [of July] but didn’t raise it with Commonwealth,” Brendan Murphy, health department secretary and former chief medical officer, told the hearing.

St Basil’s management has previously disputed these allegations, arguing state authorities were notified on July 9.

Professor Murphy said the delay was likely due to state health officials being overwhelmed.

The Federal Government had to step in to help manage St Basil’s aged care home.(ABC News)

“I think the challenge was with the huge, overwhelming amount of community transmission. The Victorian public health unit had some delays in both getting tests back and identifying and analysing this was an aged-care outbreak,” he said.

St Basil’s has so far suffered approximately 20 deaths, along with 142 confirmed infections. Senators, including Labor senator Katy Gallagher, have blamed this failure in communication for the cause of the tragedy experienced by residents.

“There was a five-day window where the Commonwealth had no line of sight or understanding that there was an outbreak at St Basil’s,” she said.

Federal health authorities initiated widespread testing at St Basil’s on July 15.

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