Horror homes: Shocking truth of aged care neglect
Diabolical failings have been exposed in Melbourne's coronavirus-plagued aged-care homes, with 84 separate outbreaks and more than 900 cases now linked to the sector.
The Herald Sun has been told some residents have been left sitting in their own faeces, malnourished and not cleaned for days.
As tensions mounted between state and federal governments on Tuesday, interventions at private facilities exposed a raft of damning allegations, including:
Faeces found in beds and patients left unfed for days at St Basil's in Fawkner;
Staff at Epping Gardens Aged Care being forced to call triple-0 because there were only four of them on duty; and
Defence force personnel raising serious concerns for their safety after being deployed to help at Epping Gardens.
Some care-home residents also sat unwashed for days.
The Herald Sun has been told that at Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth, management was unable to provide vital details of staff and residents' close contacts.
At a Dandenong care home, which has three residents in critical condition, a physiotherapist who worked with patients on every floor of the facility tested positive. There were last night 769 active cases and 39 deaths linked to aged-care homes.
The daughter of a resident at Epping Gardens said her mother had twice not been washed for stretches of four days, before being transferred to hospital on Tuesday.
Susan, who did not want her surname published, said her 67-year-old mother's catheter had also not been cleaned for four days, leaving her at risk of infection.
"There's a lot of people there who I think are even worse off than my mum, but they aren't capable of communicating their problems," she said.
"Others are too scared to say anything, because they fear that if they do they won't get looked after properly."
Susan said she believed management at her mother's facility was too slow to respond to cases of coronavirus.
She also said she had seen staff flouting mandatory mask laws.
"I first raised the understaffing issues last week, and honestly, nothing has changed," she said.
"The residents at mum's facility are not getting attended to for their basic needs. This is not acceptable."
ST BASIL'S HAS BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS: COVID VICTIM'S FAMILY
The managers of St Basil's aged care centre in Fawkner have "blood on their hands" after the death of a beloved grandfather, according to his heartbroken family.
Dimitrios Roussos, 96, died in hospital on July 22 after contracting COVID-19 at the aged care home.
His grandson, Perry Tseros, said the family - many of whom live "quite far away" - had wanted to protect him by putting him in a home where "he would get the best care".
"As my brother said to me, we put him in there so he could stay alive - but he probably would have more of a chance if we pushed him in front of a train," he said.
"I feel as though his blood is on their hands, and all my brothers say the exact
The Broadmeadows man, who was born in Greece, was farewelled by loved ones on Tuesday.
"He was big on family, that was his pride," Mr Tseros said.
"When us grandkids or his great grandkids would walk into the room, he would light up. It kills me to think how he felt, not being able to see any of us (before he died).
"He will never be forgotten - all the time we spent together, all the stories he told me, are all in my mind and in my heart."
Mr Tseros, who lives in Ballarat, said St Basil's management needed to be held accountable for the outbreak that had ravaged the home.
"I've just lost my grandpa, the one person I could talk to about anything. I've just lost someone I love and nothing is happening - we need something to come from this," Mr Tseros said.
"Whoever is running that place needs to be held accountable. We need some sort of retribution.
"Elderly people with underlying health conditions are the ones who are most vulnerable, so they are the ones you have to be most careful with. Why weren't they being cautious?"
In another horrifying story emerging from the St Basil's aged care home, the family of Vicky Patsakos said she had been bed-bound for 10 days without a shower or proper food, water and administering of medication. "And she's one of the lucky ones because she's still alive," her son-in-law Jack Karikas said.
A frantic Mr Karikas and his wife Helen visited the home on Sunday and brushed past the sole staffer to see the Alzheimer's sufferer through the window.
"She was unresponsive, just laying there on the bed," Mr Karikas said.
"We started banging on the window and took our face masks off so she could recognise us, and she started motioning for water.
"These residents aren't dying from coronavirus, they're dying from neglect," he said.
Mr Karikas said he yelled through a closed glass door to staff, pleading with them to give his mother-in-law water.
"She's just laying there neglected," he said.
Mr Karikas said Ms Patsakos was transferred to hospital on Monday night.
FAMILY RAGE RISES AT GRIM GARDENS
Tensions boiled over outside Epping Gardens Aged Care on Tuesday as families grew desperate for answers over their loved ones.
The daughter of one resident threatened to smash her way into the nursing home if they did not let her see her mum.
Other relatives broke down in tears as they were kept in the dark about the conditions of their loved ones and where they were being kept.
"It's very sad knowing what he is going through in there with no family," said the daughter of 83-year-old resident Jordan Petrovski.
"I just don't understand how it got so bad."
Some relatives demanded the centre be closed immediately and residents taken to hospital after the cluster grew from two to 83 cases in a week and staff were accused of mishandling the crisis.
The nursing home operator, Heritage Care, blamed the state government for denying requests to send sick residents to hospital sooner. It also admitted some staff had been suspended for hosting a party onsite during the outbreak.
But CEO Greg Reeve said violence against staff was unacceptable and security guards were being considered to protect staff at the site.
"Staff are scared to come to work. We can't have people threatening our staff and intimidating them," he said.
"We are doing our best."
Lucy Larubina screamed at staff as she waited outside the home to find out if her 85-year-old mum Elsa was OK.
"I want to see my mum. Youse (sic) f....d up by having a f.....g party in there. This is your fault," she screamed.
Ms Larubina demanded she be "suited up" in protective clothing and allowed to go into the virus-ridden home to see her mum.
She holds deep concerns for her mother's wellbeing amid reports residents have been mistreated as the dwindling number of staff grapple with the outbreak.
The daughter of a 75-year-old resident with COVID-19 told the Herald Sun her mother was left for hours in a urine-soaked bed last week.
"At 10am (Tuesday) my mum, who is a diabetic, hadn't had breakfast (due to the) lack of staff," she said.
"My mum was left for hours last week after waking to a urine soaked bed before she was showered and changed."
The woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said staff said her mother was not on a "critical list" 20 minutes before a doctor called to discuss end-of-life plans for her mother, who she had been unable to reach since Sunday.
"The first conversation gave me hope and that we had been worried for nothing and everything was going to be OK," she said.
"Twenty minutes later a geriatrician called and asked about an advanced care plan and our wishes if she deteriorates."
Heritage Care confirmed staff held a "private function" at the Epping home.
"All staff involved were stood down immediately when we were alerted," it said.
"It is important to state we did not endorse this activity, nor were we aware this was organised.
"We consider this to be an extremely serious breach of Heritage Care's expectations.
"We disclosed this information to the department, commission and police as soon as we were informed."
Family of ill residents at the home were "disgusted" by the party and lack of care by staff.
The virus has now infected 61 residents and 22 staff.
Mr Petrovski has tested negative to COVID-19 but has been locked in his room.
His distressed daughter Susan Nedanovski drove to the nursing home on Tuesday to try get answers and said she had to learn about the outbreak on the news.
"We have been ringing for the last week or so," she said.
"We didn't know anything about it until we saw it on the news."
Mr Petrovski has a serious heart condition and his family is devastated to be cut off from him.
"It's just not knowing what's happening that's hard," Ms Nedanovski said.
She wants all residents who test positive to COVID-19 removed to protect others.
"They need to be put somewhere where they are safe and so they can deal with the people who are sick," she said.
Heritage Care told families they had tried to move residents earlier but were denied by the state government.
It said its attempt to move residents to hospital "was opposed by the department and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission as not being the best process when raised".
- Aneeka Simonis
MEDIC SAS SQUAD CALLED IN
A specialist medical team built to handle humanitarian disasters is being sent to Victoria to try to stem the deadly spread of COVID-19 in more than 80 aged-care homes.
Nurses from Victorian hospitals, as well as from NSW and South Australia, are also joining the fight with hundreds of aged-care workers now coronavirus patients or close contacts.
Premier Daniel Andrews moved on Tuesday to suspend several types of elective surgery, freeing up hospital beds for aged-care residents caught up in outbreaks.
It followed days of negotiations with the federal government amid fears of staff shortages and warnings from providers about hospitals refusing to accept transfers of residents.
DANIEL ANDREWS TOO EAGER TO SHIFT BLAME
Aged care is the federal government's problem. That would have been clear to anyone who watched Daniel Andrews on Tuesday.
"These private facilities are not run by the Victorian government but that doesn't matter," the Premier said.
"The commonwealth has asked for our help and that's exactly what they'll get."
After weeks dealing with a disaster of his own making, Mr Andrews appeared more comfortable shifting the blame for the coronavirus crisis in aged care homes to Canberra.
The federal government happily accepted his help. But senior figures ranged between miffed and angry at the way in which Mr Andrews framed his intervention.