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Hotel quarantine officer wasn’t trained in PPE before overseeing Victoria’s quarantine scheme

A hotel quarantine officer claims he received diversity training but no guidance on personal protective equipment 

Luke Ashford, a senior employee with Parks Victoria, was seconded on May 25 to work as an authorised officer across seven different quarantine hotels.

He told state’s hotel quarantine inquiry he completed an hour of ‘equity and diversity training’, was given a 10-minute handover before the start of his first shift and a ‘draft document’ outlining what his role entailed.

But he received no training in infection control or how to use personal protective equipment.

‘Everything I know about COVID-19 is from Channel 9 and the ABC,’ he wrote in his statement. 

He quit on June 18, angered by the lack of infection control among staff.

‘I did not feel that this was a safe environment to work in and I was concerned for my health and the health of my family,’ he said.

‘I didn’t want to be the guy who shut my daughter’s school down.’

The inquiry also heard from a security supervisor who saw guards, nurses and departmental staff working across a number of sites.

‘It goes without saying. If you’re trying to isolate movement of a virus, then that is not a way to do it,’ he told the inquiry. 

The supervisor, who cannot be named for legal reasons, worked at the Crowne Plaza and Pullman hotels between April 9 and July 4.

He said he was ‘relieved’ when shifts were no longer given to two or three guards he constantly ‘had to keep an eye on’ to ensure they didn’t leave their posts, fall asleep or spend too much time on their phones.

He had assumed they were fired, but later discovered they had been moved to a different hotel.

The supervisor, who was subcontracted by Wilson Security, said he was concerned by the amount of ‘subcontracting on top of subcontracting’.

‘The guards at the bottom are getting paid hardly anything,’ he wrote in a statement to the inquiry.

‘They are not going to be as conscientious and it is those guards that are more likely to work at different hotels, be on their phones or fall asleep.’

Liliana Ratcliff and her family returned from Spain on May 6 and were taken to the Stamford Plaza, which along with the Rydges on Swanston can be linked to 99 per cent of the state’s current COVID-19 cases.

The health practitioner of 20 years described the security guards at the hotel as ‘very lovely people’ who seemed to not understand infection control.

She said nursing staff didn’t change gloves between COVID-19 tests, while a staff member came to her hotel room to deliver a Mother’s Day gift without a mask.

‘We are more likely to catch COVID-19 by being locked in a hotel with other returned travellers than if we were allowed to quarantine at home,’ Ms Ratcliff wrote in a complaint to the Department of Health and Human Services.

She is yet to hear back from the department.

Sue and Ron Erasmus, who stayed at the same hotel, raised similar concerns at the inquiry.

‘We were pretty much sitting ducks,’ Ms Erasmus, a trained nurse, said.

The couple and their two children had returned from South Africa on May 1, following the death of Mr Erasmus’s father.

Mr Erasmus spiralled into a depression during their 14-day quarantine but when trying to seek mental health support he was put through to different staff who were unable to help.

‘It felt like I lost my dad 14 times in that process,’ he said.

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