Nurses detail mistakes in Vic quarantine

Nine in 10 active COVID-19 cases in Melbourne have been traced back to the Rydges on Swanston hotel.
Nine in 10 active COVID-19 cases in Melbourne have been traced back to the Rydges on Swanston hotel.

Security guards working in Victoria's quarantine hotels misused personal protective equipment, while nurses went without, an inquiry into the program has heard.

Michael Tait, a nurse with 20 years experience, worked with the first arrivals into quarantine at the Crown Metropol and Crown Promenade.

He told Victoria's hotel quarantine inquiry on Thursday only 25 guests were tested for COVID-19 in the first five days due to the lack of swab kits and personal protective equipment for nurses.

"We didn't have medium gloves until day four. We did not get N95 masks until day eight," Mr Tait said in his witness statement.

"We never got hoods, face shields or shoe coverings even though we were told we would."

Meanwhile, he said security guards "didn't understand the importance or even the use of PPE", and left used masks and gloves strewn on the ground.

"I saw security guards with their masks down underneath their chin, eating their lunch with gloves on," Mr Tait told the inquiry.

Mr Tait described the Department of Health and Human Services policies as "shambolic", while rules for guests changed "every day, if not every hour".

He said a woman who tested positive to COVID-19 was allowed to wait in a hotel lobby "filled with security guards" for hours without PPE.

"Some of them (the security guards) had their masks on, some of them didn't," Mr Tait said.

"As soon as I saw her I instantly grabbed some of the guards' masks and gloves and handed them to her and said, 'You have to put these on'."

Another nurse, identified only as Jen for legal reasons, worked mainly at the Park Royal hotel for four weeks and expressed similar concerns.

"I saw a lot of mostly security guards constantly wearing the same gloves throughout their shift, going and making themselves a coffee without their gloves on, using their phone, things like that," she said.

Jen said guests with serious mental and physical health issues were treated as if they were "a problem and being annoying".

She said a man was told by a Department of Health and Human Services staff member that they "need to stop threatening suicide just so they can get a cigarette".

Another hotel guest, who suffered severe pain from endometriosis, was unable to access traditional Chinese medicine to help with the pain.

The nurses - who were contracted through Your Nursing Agency - said they were no longer given shifts in hotel quarantine after voicing their concerns.

"(Crown) Metropol is struggling. We are taking care of 700+ residents, lots of children ... we have a challenging task, taking care of 150 folks each," Mr Tait wrote in an email on his last day.

He said he was particularly concerned after a guest had suicidal thoughts the night before.

"If there is a suicidal ideation like there was one last night we will be swamped," he wrote.

The email recipient's name was redacted.

Also called to give evidence on Thursday were returned travellers, including the director of the Human Rights Law Centre Hugh de Krester.

He stayed at the Rydges on Swanston with his family in late June, a month after an outbreak was reported at the facility.

"Given the reports, we expected that our room would be thoroughly clean and smelling of disinfectant. It was the opposite," Mr de Krester said in his statement.

Images were shown to the inquiry of his room, which had dust and dirt on walls, mould in the bathroom and bloodstains on doonas.

Used gloves, masks and toys were found underneath beds.

Mr de Krester said his family was only provided with 15 minutes of fresh air on days 12 and 13 of their stay.

Couple Kate Hyslop and Ricky Singh, meanwhile, were not offered a fresh air break once while quarantining at Crown Metropol in mid-April, nor were they tested for coronavirus.

Hearings continue before retired Judge Jennifer Coate on Friday.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

Australian Associated Press