The operators of St Basil’s Home for the Aged have been served with a Supreme Court writ that is expected to lead to a major class action, following a devastating COVID-19 outbreak connected to more than 30 deaths.
More than a quarter of St Basil’s 120 residents have died since the coronavirus outbreak started in early July.
Effie Fotiadis’ father Dimitrios (a resident at St Basil’s) died of a coronavirus infection. She is the lead plaintiff in a class action against the home.Credit:Chris Hopkins
Effie Fotiadis is the first plaintiff to launch civil action against St Basil's, which is owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. Her 79-year-old father Dimitrios died on July 25 in the Northern Hospital, after becoming infected with coronavirus at the home.
A statement of claim filed on Thursday accuses St Basil's of breaching its duty of care to residents on more than 26 occasions, which contributed to the rapid transmission of the virus.
The retirement home also faces claims it repeatedly breached state and federal regulations by continuing to operate the facility, when it should have known that lives were endangered, according to the court documents.
Carbone Lawyers partner John Karantzis said there was mounting evidence of appalling neglect at St Basil's.
The home is already the subject of an investigation by State Coroner John Cain and a police taskforce, along with a federal government inquiry. Canberra has responsibility for overseeing aged care.
Mr Karantzis said he was acting on behalf of 15 other families who had lost relatives at St Basil's.
"Our clients have been devastated by the negligence and misconduct at this nursing home. Their loved ones have died alone and in fear.”
"We want to make sure this never happens again, but also hold the management of St Basil's to account over their complete failure to protect our most vulnerable," Mr Karantzis said.
He said he was aware of a deceased resident who was left in a bed for 26 hours before any action was taken. On another occasion, only six staff turned up to work at the home.
St Basil’s was placed in the hands of replacement staff on July 22 after Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton directed the facility’s entire management and staff into quarantine to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
St Basil's is yet to file its defence to the Supreme Court writ.
The chairman of St Basil's, Konstantin Kontis, has previously declined to comment on the prospect of legal action against the centre but defended the conduct of his staff.
St Basil’s is a wholly owned entity of the Australian Greek Orthodox Church and its most recent financial posting shows the home had revenue of $13.1 million in the financial year ending in 2019.
Almost all of its revenue came from the federal government. From that revenue, it last year sent $2.5 million back to the church as rent.
Ms Fotiadis said St Basil’s had failed to handle the coronavirus infections competently.
"The way they did not look after my dad, that’s why I’m doing this," she said. "The care they gave was not good. They could have stopped it [the spread of COVID-19]. Once one person got tested positive, they should have been able to stop it."
The 48-year-old from Moonee Ponds said if her dad had survived, she would not have allowed him to return to St Basil’s.
"He wouldn’t be going back in there. I wouldn’t want others to have their parents in that home."
Ms Fotiadis said her father had tested positive to coronavirus "weeks" before he was transferred to the Northern Hospital, where he died. "Why did it take so long to get him to hospital?"
She has still not received her father’s belongings from St Basil’s. "I’ve been trying to ring them but they never answer."
The Age has made repeated attempts to contact the home seeking a response to the matters raised in the writ.
The son of a 92-year-old woman who died of a coronavirus infection acquired at Epping Gardens Aged Care in Melbourne's north this week filed a first Supreme Court writ against the home.
Sebastian Agnello will be the lead plaintiff in the class action, also being brought by Carbone Lawyers, which is representing about 30 families with relatives who either died at the home or who were living there until recently.
The first death in a Victorian aged care home was recorded on July 11. Federal Department of Health figures on Thursday showed that, by the start of this week, there had been 232 COVID-19 deaths linked to aged care facilities.
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