Nurse charged after allegedly attending work at aged care home while COVID-positive

Victoria’s workplace safety regulator has charged an aged care nurse with two breaches of occupational safety laws after she allegedly went to work at a nursing home in Melbourne’s south after testing positive for coronavirus.

It is believed to be the first time WorkSafe has charged an individual over pandemic-related workplace safety breaches in aged care and comes after the launch of legal action against two nursing homes at the centre of deadly COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020.

The nurse is alleged to have attended work after returning a positive PCR test.Credit:Fairfax

WorkSafe alleges the nurse reported for casual shifts at the aged care facility between July 26 and August 2, 2020, after being told not to attend work and receiving a positive COVID-19 test result.

In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, the regulator said there was no suggestion the nurse’s actions lead to the spread of the virus within the facility. The nursing home has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The nurse has been charged with placing another person in danger of serious injury by attending work after returning a positive COVID PCR test result and with failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of people at the facility.

She faces up to five years in jail and half a million dollars in fines for the breaches. The matter is listed for a hearing at the Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court in September.

The charges come after St Basil’s Homes for the Aged and Heritage Care were charged by WorkSafe with failing to provide a safe work environment to staff and others during the pandemic. Both are accused of failing to adequately train staff in the use of personal protective equipment.

Forty-five residents at St Basil’s died from COVID-19 in 2020, with the Coroners Court hearing last year that another five residents also perished, probably from neglect. Ninety-four residents and 94 staff tested positive during the outbreak.

At Epping Gardens Aged Care, which is run by Heritage Care, 34 residents died after contracting the virus during an outbreak between March and July 2020. A total of 89 residents and 65 staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Aged care homes across the country have experienced significant coronavirus spread, with 1964 COVID-19 deaths reported nationally in the year to June 30 and 2881 over the course of the pandemic.

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