May 09, 2023

Care Provider interrogated in court over COVID-19 deaths, staff safety

Alistair Cooray (pictured) told the court his facility had a COVID-19 outbreak procedure before the fatal July 2020 outbreak. [Source: Diego Fedele, AAP]

Key Points:

  • Victoria’s workplace regulator, WorkSafe Victoria, is prosecuting Epping Gardens aged care facility’s parent company, Heritage Care, after 89 residents and 65 staff contracted during an outbreak that saw 34 residents die from the virus or related complications
  • Heritage Care was charged by WorkSafe Victoria with three occupational health and safety offences, including failure to ensure a safe workplace and is now facing a fine of up to almost $4.5 million 
  • The case is currently appearing before the Melbourne Magistrates Court until Thursday 

The former General Manager of a Melbourne aged care home appeared in court on Monday to defend his facility’s COVID-19 procedures despite 34 of its residents dying  and 65 staff members contracting the virus during an outbreak in July 2020.

Alistair Cooray, who was General Manager of Epping Gardens residential aged care facility at that time, was questioned during a hearing scrutinising the home’s outbreak preparation and safety procedures.

Mr Cooray told the court that an outbreak plan was established in the home long before the July outbreak. He said that appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was acquired, that workers were informed about the updating COVID-19 guidelines and were directed to clean frequently touched surfaces twice a day since the onset of the pandemic in April 2020.

The former General Manager also alleged that specific COVID-19 training was offered to staff in the months leading up to the outbreak but admitted it wasn’t mandatory to complete. One-on-one training with a Registered Nurse was said to be provided to workers “actively working on shift”.

WorkSafe Victoria alleged only seven staff members had undertaken infection control training, 10 had completed on-site PPE training and none had finished Zoom PPE training before the July outbreak.’

“I didn’t roll this out … anything made mandatory I would have been across,” Mr Cooray told the court. “From what I saw, (staff) took it seriously.” 

He said visitors and staff had to be buzzed in by reception staff and couldn’t just “wander in and out” of the facility.

The hearing picked back up again today.

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