Nurses detail 'chaotic' scenes in Victoria's hotel quarantine

Nurses have spoken at Victoria's inquiry into hotel quarantine about their concerns over breaches of mask protocol and other issues.

The Honourable Jennifer Coate AO is seen during the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry in Melbourne, Monday, July 20, 2020

The Honourable Jennifer Coate is seen during the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry in Melbourne, Monday, July 20, 2020 Source: AAP

A nurse says he was "blown away" when he saw a woman who tested positive to COVID-19 standing in a hotel lobby for two hours without a mask or gloves.

"I was off-shift when I saw her standing there without gloves or a mask on in the lobby filled with security guards. Some of them had their masks on, some of them didn't," Michael Tait told Victoria's inquiry into hotel quarantine on Thursday.

"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."

He said the woman had been scheduled to leave the hotel at midday but was left waiting until 10pm.

Mr Tait, a nurse of 20 years, began working in quarantine hotels on March 29 - the first day of the program.

He was mainly based at the Crown Metropol and Crown Promenade but did a shift at Crowne Plaza and at the Rydges on Swanston, one of two hotels where outbreaks occurred.

He described his first shift as "chaotic", with just three gowns, no gloves and a handful of surgical masks provided to nurses.

During his first five days at Crown Promenade, only 25 guests were tested for the virus.

"This was because we did not have enough swab gear available," Mr Tait wrote in his witness statement.

Recently arrived overseas travellers arrive at the Crown Promenade Hotel in Melbourne.
Recently arrived overseas travellers arrive at the Crown Promenade Hotel in Melbourne. Source: AAP

"The nurses were also hesitant to do swabs because we did not have adequate PPE to protect ourselves. We didn't have medium gloves until day four. We did not get N95 masks until day eight. We never got hoods, face shields or shoe coverings even though we were told we would."

Mr Tait said it was obvious security guards "didn't understand the importance, or even the use of PPE".

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

A nurse, known only as Jen, worked at the Park Royal hotel for four weeks and expressed similar concerns.

"I saw a lot of mostly security guards, for example, 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.

"Always wearing the same gloves, wearing their masks so their nose was hanging out or it (the mask) was underneath their chin. That was constantly seen."

Jen said guest with serious mental and physical health issues were treated as if they were problematic.

She said a man who was threatening suicide 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 pain management.

After raising her concerns, Jen said she was no longer given shifts in hotel quarantine.

Mr Tait was also "blacklisted" from working in the program after he wrote an email voicing his 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," he wrote.

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.

It earlier was revealed 99 per cent of the state's current COVID-19 cases can be traced back to three groups of returned travellers who quarantined at the Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza hotels in May and June.

The state's second wave has killed hundreds and forced Melbourne into the nation's toughest lockdown.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact  on 13 11 14,  on 1300 659 467 and  on 1800 55 1800 (up to age 25). 

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5 min read
Published 20 August 2020 at 4:36pm
Source: AAP, SBS