St Basil’s inquest: Woman says dad became ‘skeleton’ while mother was ‘dosed on antipsychotics’

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A woman whose parents died after contracting COVID-19 at St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner is the latest to come forward.

Branka Lyons told a coronial inquest on Wednesday her father became a “breathing skeleton” after he wasn’t fed, while her mother was “dosed on antipsychotics”. 

Lyons teared up as she recalled the scene at the home while it dealt with an outbreak in July 2020. 

“I’ve got my mum and dad beside me, I’m doing this for them,” she said.

Lyons says her father Jakov Pucar, 90, could only eat pureed or minced foods and became a “breathing skeleton” before being hospitalised. 

He was diagnosed with COVID-19 a day later. 

“I don’t think my dad had anything to eat the whole time they were there … he was a skeleton.”

Lyons said her dad was given morphine against her wishes, which she said may have hastened his decline.

She says her mother, 82, “cried her heart out, she was heartbroken”. 

Replacement aged care worker Robert McDougall told the inquiry he couldn’t believe what he saw at the home. 

“I’ve spoken to the department of health to please shut this place down,” said Mr McDougall. It is unclear whether he is referring to the Victorian or commonwealth health department. 

Ms Lyons recounted how she heard replacement staff barge into her mother’s room at the Fawkner facility while she was speaking with her, with the phone left off the hook as the worker repeatedly and aggressively asked her mother their name.

“They spoke to her harshly and abruptly, it broke my heart,” she said.

Ms Lyons said she asked for mother to be taken to the Northern Hospital with her father.

She said her mother was instead taken to Wantirna Health, about a 50-minute drive from the Northern, where she was given a “cocktail of drugs” and “dosed on antipsychotics and antibiotics”.

“My main concern was the antipsychotics because my mother was not psychotic, she needed comfort and care and someone to talk to her gently and reassure her,” said Ms Lyons.

“She didn’t get that.”

Ms Lyons said she didn’t receive a phone call from Wantirna Health before her mother’s death, robbing her of the opportunity to be by her side when she passed.

“Our elderly deserve better than this,” she said.

An independent review of major Covid outbreaks in aged care facilities found that testing and contact tracing delays “often impeded effective responses to and control of Covid-19 outbreaks”, something which has improved with the establishment of the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre.

Source: The Australian

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