St Basil's residents 'barely conscious'

St Basil's residents appeared malnourished and dehydrated after being transferred to a hospital.
St Basil's residents appeared malnourished and dehydrated after being transferred to a hospital.

Residents from a Melbourne aged care home struck by COVID-19 appeared malnourished, dehydrated and "barely conscious" after being transferred to a hospital, an inquest has been told.

Outbreak managers replaced the entire St Basil's Home for the Aged staff with an emergency workforce on July 22 last year, during Melbourne's second wave.

Within hours of the handover, inexperienced nursing staff were struggling to care for the mostly Greek-speaking residents, who had already missed meals and medicine.

The inquest into the coronavirus deaths of 45 St Basil's residents and another five residents who likely died of neglect has evidence from Victoria Atkinson, who handled the intake of 10 residents evacuated from the Fawkner facility to Bellbird Private Hospital on July 25.

Dr Atkinson said the Blackburn South hospital was converted into a COVID ward within six hours, having only been told St Basil's residents would arrive the day before.

Bellbird staff had to try to learn Greek after St Basil's residents arrived without identification or medical history.

"The majority of the patients were soiled on arrival and had pressure injuries and appeared malnourished and dehydrated," Dr Atkinson, Healthscope's chief medical officer, said in a statement provided to the inquest on Tuesday.

"Patients were deeply unconscious, had low oxygen level sand were unrousable.

"There was evidence of poor hygiene care. None were transported with oxygen supplementation. All required intravenous fluids for a number of days."

Dr Atkinson said many of the residents' family members didn't know their relative was COVID-positive, or that they had been transferred to Bellbird.

Meanwhile, Dr Atkinson said calls from Bellbird to St Basil's frequently went unanswered.

St Basil's recorded its first COVID case on July 9 before staff were replaced by a Commonwealth-sourced surge workforce on July 22.

Senior doctors warned the afternoon before the handover that replacing regular staff was a "shocking idea" and the plan would turn out to be "a disaster", the inquest was told previously.

The hearing continues before Victorian State Coroner John Cain.

Australian Associated Press