A decision by senior staff at a Melbourne nursing home to host an unauthorised party at an aged-care centre now riddled with Covid-19 cases has been slammed by the facility's CEO and families of residents.
News.com.au reported on July 29 that six staff members were stood down after it emerged that a baby shower had taken place at Epping Gardens in Melbourne's north where, at the time, there had been no positive coronavirus cases.
The party was discovered by a resident who buzzed for a nurse to attend and was dismayed when no one came.
Maureen O'Brien pulled herself out of bed to go and find help but was shocked to find a party taking place.
"She struggled to get up on her frame and she went to the nurses station and asked for a Panadol," her daughter Donna told 4 Corners on Monday.
"She was told off quite severely ... but my mum wanted to know, 'Why are all these people here. What's going on?' She thought it was a get-together."
Within four days, the first case of Covid-19 was discovered in the facility. A staff member was infected and so was a resident.
Within six days, the virus had spread to 60 residents and 22 staff, including all six who attended the baby shower.
Two of the staff members breached Covid-19 checks to get in to the facility on a night when they were not rostered to work.
There have been 20 deaths linked to the Covid-19 outbreak at the facility, but there are likely to be more still.
Greg Reeve, CEO of Heritage Care, which manages the facility, said: "It was arranged by one of the more senior registered nurses at the time."
He called the party "beyond the pale".
"It was unauthorised, breached protocols," he said. "I can speak not only as CEO but as a registered nurse. I think the lack of regard they have shown is something that is beyond the pale."
Asked by the ABC programme whether the party was solely responsible for the outbreak at Epping Gardens, Reeve responded: "We don't know."
Lawyer Tony Carbone is managing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of about 30 families affected by the outbreak at Epping Gardens.
He said that as cases climbed, staff were either unable to work or did not want to become infected themselves. It left a void in staffing numbers and residents allegedly suffered as a result.
"There were cases where people weren't fed," Carbone said. "Which is extraordinary when you think about it."
Reeve rejected the allegation that residents' care needs weren't met.
"I don't think they were neglected," he said.
A memo sent to relatives of residents last month revealed staff were stood down for an "extremely serious breach" amid an outbreak of coronavirus cases.
The memo, seen by news.com.au, described the party in vague terms but said police had to be called.
"A small number of staff chose to have a private function at Epping Gardens," the memo read.
"All staff members involved were stood down immediately when they were alerted. It is important to state that we did not endorse this activity, nor were we aware this was organised.
"We consider this to be an extremely serious breach of (manager) Heritage Care's expectations.
"We disclosed this information to the Department ... and police as soon as we were informed."
The memo also revealed that management "advocated for residents to be transferred to hospital" but "unfortunately this was opposed by the Department of Aged Care and Safety Commission".