Bill Shorten has slammed management of the COVID crisis in Victoria’s aged-care centres after his elderly neighbour vanished in the system for days – only for his worried family to finally be told he had died.
Theo Makridis, who lived two doors from Mr Shorten and had advanced cancer, went into the coronavirus-riddled St Basil’s Homes for the Aged for respite care on July 7.
That was the last his family saw of him.
Mr Makridis died on July 25. The cause of his death remains unknown.
On Tuesday, the former opposition leader told Today that Mr Makridis’ daughter, Rita, had called him and said: “I’m just out of luck. I cannot find what has happened to my father for five days.”
Mr Makridis went into St Basil’s, at Fawkner in Melbourne’s north, a day before it was locked down amid the surging coronavirus crisis.
His family say they had no contact with him, and no news about his condition, in the days between Tuesday, July 21, and Saturday, July 25,
“They couldn’t tell them if he was alive or had passed away, where he was – hospital or in the aged-care facility,” Mr Shorten said.
“Then Saturday afternoon, late afternoon, Rita finally got a call and it was the news that she didn’t want to hear, that he’d passed. It is wrong.”
Ms Makridis told the ABC on Tuesday she still does not know if her father was ever tested for COVID-19.
“There’s an expectation they’re meant to be helping but families are just being torn apart,” she said.
“We just wanted some answers and information.”
More than 680 coronavirus cases have been linked to more than 60 aged-care homes in Victoria. On Monday afternoon, 84 of them were associated with St Basil’s.
There are grave fears more residents will die in coming days. Five of Victoria’s six deaths on Monday were linked to nursing homes, as Australia’s virus toll rose to 161.
Other families have also complained about a lack of information about their loved ones from St Basil’s and other aged-care homes struggling to deal with the virus outbreak. There have also been reports people have been left without food and lying in soiled sheets.
Last week, John Atzarakis said he and his family had seen worrying signs, including an absence of mask wearing among staff at St Basil’s, when they went to visit his 77-year-old mother Fotini.
She was fighting for life in Melbourne’s Austin Hospital after becoming infected with the virus.
Mr Atzarakis said the home had been slow to update families and staff told his sister they were waiting for health department advice before running full tests on every staff member and resident.
On Tuesday, Luci Larubina, whose 85-year-old mother Elsa is in Epping Gardens, told the ABC she learned coronavirus had struck the home from the media.
Elsa tested negative to coronavirus, but Ms Larubina found that out only when she and her son Patrick actually visited the facility.
“We tried ringing them, they never answered my phone calls,” she said.
Ms Larubina and Patrick said they felt like they were “left in the dark” about the situation at Epping Gardens.
“I really wish I could see her,” she said.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has asked the aged-care quality and safety commissioner to investigate St Basil’s.
Mr Hunt said 79 of 115 residents at St Basil’s had been transferred, with more expected to be moved on Tuesday.
Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd said 5 per cent of all coronavirus cases in Victoria since April were among aged-care residents and 4 per cent in staff.
“The tragedy of COVID-19 is we know with the number of new infections we have seen, there will be many further deaths in the days ahead,” he said on Monday.
Among other worrying virus outbreaks at aged-care homes in Victoria are 82 cases at Estia Health in Ardeer, 77 at Epping Gardens Aged Care and 62 at Essendon’s Menarock Aged Care.
A further 57 cases have been linked to Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth and 53 to Glendale Aged Care in Werribee.
Earlier in the pandemic, 19 residents of Sydney’s Newmarch House nursing home died from coronavirus.