The managers of a Melbourne aged care home where 50 people died in a COVID-19 outbreak will be compelled to give evidence at a coronial inquiry.
- Kon Kontis and Vicky Kos last year refused to give evidence at a coronial inquest, causing delays in proceedings
- The Supreme Court found the coroner acted lawfully in ordering them to appear
- Family members of residents who died have welcomed the ruling, saying it will help provide answers
Kon Kontis and Vicky Kos were in charge of the St Basil’s Aged Care Home in Fawkner when the virus swept through the facility in July and August 2020.
They were initially called to give evidence at a coronial inquest last year but refused on the grounds they might incriminate themselves.
State Coroner John Cain then made a ruling compelling them to appear, but Mr Kontis and Ms Kos took the matter to the Supreme Court.
Today Justice Stephen O’Meara ruled against the pair, finding the coroner had acted lawfully.
Klery Loutas, who lost her 77-year-old mother Filia Xynidakis in the disaster, has welcomed the decision.
“They [Mr Kontis and Ms Kos] have got vital pieces of the puzzle that they need to share with us so we know exactly what happened, how it happened, so governments and legislators can take action so that it doesn’t happen again,” Ms Loutas said.
Ms Loutas said the delay caused by the Supreme Court action had been difficult for families.
“We’ve all been very anxious, we all want to get through this and survive the stress and the torment and the anguish and the trauma we have faced having gone through this and the process being delayed, it just adds stress to our lives, she said.
“We’ve buried our loved ones, but we haven’t laid them to rest and until we find out exactly what happened to them and why it happened none of us will be at peace, none of us will ever be at ease or start to properly mourn and grieve.”
The inquest last year heard care for residents dropped off dramatically when the virus took hold in mid-July 2020.
After Victoria’s Chief Health Officer ruled that all staff had to be considered close contacts, the federal government struggled to find a replacement workforce.
The inquest heard residents were left malnourished and dehydrated and within six weeks, 50 had died.
The inquest was added while Mr Kontis and Ms Kos’ battle to stay silent continued.
It is unclear when the hearing will resume.
St Basil’s operators facing charges
Today’s Supreme Court decision comes as the operators of the nursing home also appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court where they are accused of breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
St Basil’s is facing nine charges which include failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment, failing to provide information and supervision, and failing to make sure that people other than staff members were not exposed to health and safety risks.
WorkSafe investigators allege the nursing home operator did not make sure workers wore protective equipment and did not train workers in how to use it.
They also allege St Basil’s failed to tell workers when protective equipment should be used, failed to supervise them using the equipment or verify that they were able to competently don and doff the gear.
If convicted, the nursing home provider is facing ends of just under $1.49 million.
St Basil’s will return to court in December for an administrative hearing.