Feb 08, 2024

St Basil’s adjourns hearing, allegations of nine health and safety breaches

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State Coroner John Cain was investigating the death of the 45 residents but placed it on hold until the conclusion of the criminal charges. [Source: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie]

A Melbourne aged care facility charged by WorkSafe with nine breaches of occupational health and safety legislation during a COVID-19 cluster has successfully had its court hearing delayed due to its underprepared legal team.

St Basil’s Home for the Aged saw 45 residents die from a deadly COVID-19 outbreak during the height of the pandemic in 2020 and the Victorian workplace health and safety regulator alleged the facility failed to require workers to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) after being notified that a worker had tested positive to the virus.

WorkSafe also alleges the facility failed to train workers how to safely use protective equipment, verify staff were competent and supervise its use.

The facility was back in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday for a three-day committal hearing but its legal representation, Conor O’Bryan, applied for an adjournment after an oversight saw him without crucial documentation from the State Coroner.

State Coroner John Cain was investigating the death of the 45 residents but placed it on hold until the conclusion of the criminal charges. 

News.com.au reported that Mr O’Bryan said the documents included an expert’s evidence that showed the facility was prepared for an outbreak as well as statements from senior nurses but that evidence was denied to him by Judge Cain as he had not used the proper procedures to obtain them. 

An adjournment was called for by Mr O’Bryan to allow him time to obtain the documents and that without the ability to present them to the court, the defence would be “hamstrung”. 

“It is an unfortunate situation,” he said.

WorkSafe opposed the adjournment, claiming the hearing had been booked nine months in advance and gave the defence plenty of time to prepare, also stating residents’ families were in court on the day ready for answers.

Magistrate Jarrod Williams “regrettably” granted the adjournment “with great reluctance” but considered the move to be a genuine oversight by St Basil’s’ defence team. 

The matter will return to court for a special mention on March 4.

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