Suicidal quarantine hotel guest told ‘stop being dramatic’
A man who spent half of June in hotel quarantine with his young family has revealed a number of absurd and frustrating mistakes made during their stay, including his two toddlers seemingly listed as the adults in the room and off-limits smoked salmon provided to his pregnant wife.
The man, who cannot be identified, told the inquiry into the Melbourne hotel quarantine scheme that he was frequently on the phone with the staff running the program about various problems, but "everyone sent me somewhere else".
Despite warning ahead of entering quarantine that he had strict religious requirements for his food, as well as restrictions on what his pregnant wife could safely eat, his family received incorrect food. The man said he had to ring the caterer himself to sort it out, who hadn't been told about their dietary needs.
As he and his wife tried to organise a room with a hot bath to relieve her back pain, the man said, she was told "You're not the first pregnant woman to come here".
There also appeared to have been an odd mistake made in which his two toddlers were listed as the adults in the room, and his own name was not on the list of quarantining guests, the man said. "The adult food was listed as the children's names, my son and my daughter," and the children's food was just labelled "Child".
"At least twice they called and said, can I speak to my two-year-old daughter's name," he said. "I said, I'm happy to give the phone, but she's two years old."
As well, during his second week in quarantine, the man said, his mother received a call from the department of health looking for him.
"She said, I told them he's not here, he's in hotel quarantine. They asked her, what hotel is he in?" he said. "They seemed quite confused. They hung up and I guess tried to reach me another way."
SUICIDAL GUEST TOLD 'STOP BEING DRAMATIC'
A suicidal guest in hotel quarantine was accused of just wanting a cigarette by a department of health staffer, according to a nurse who worked in the program.
Nurse Jen, whose surname cannot be published, told the inquiry into Melbourne's hotel quarantine program she had serious concerns about how vulnerable guests were treated while detained.
One day, she said she started her shift at the Parkroyal hotel at Melbourne Airport and saw in the notes a patient had said they were considering suicide.
Jen said she raised it with the doctor on duty, who was unaware, and then with staff for the Department of Health and Human Services.
"At that point a person who worked for DHHS told me they had specifically called this guest in the room and told them that they needed to stop threatening suicide just so they can get a cigarette," she said. The message was essentially "stop being so dramatic", Jen added.
After trying to call the patient twice to no avail, Jen said she and the doctor on duty dressed in full PPE to knock on the guest's door.
They were unharmed, but "stressed and anxious", Jen said, and the whole incident left the nurse feeling angry.
In another incident a woman with endometriosis was denied access to a kettle to prepare traditional Chinese medicine that she usually used to control her pain, Jen said.
"This person was in a lot of pain," Jen said, describing her as having been almost in the foetal position. "They couldn't speak in full sentences. They were sobbing."
The woman was reluctant to take Western medicine, Jen said, but eventually agreed to take some Naprogesic, which Jen bought at the pharmacy at Melbourne Airport as it wasn't among the medicines available for nurses to administer.
Jen worked in hotel quarantine from late April to early June.
During her shifts at the Parkroyal, where she was deployed by nursing agency Nursing For You, Jen saw security guards wearing the same gloves for their entire shifts, including as they made tea and coffee on shared facilities and while using their phones.
"(They would also be) wearing their masks so their nose was hanging out, it was underneath their chin," she said. "It was constantly seen."
Based on how security guards used PPE, Jen said, "You would assume they didn't have training, and if they did, they weren't following the training they were given."
The hotels had adequate nursing staff and a good supply of PPE, Jen said.
Earlier this week the inquiry heard expert evidence that training and advice for security guards provided by the federal and state departments of health was "inappropriate".
TRAVELLERS TO DISH ON HOTEL DISASTER
Nurses and returned travellers will give a first-hand account of Victoria's bungled hotel quarantine program as an inquiry into the scheme continues on Thursday.
Human Rights Law Centre executive director Hugh de Kretser and travellers Ricky Singh and Kate Hyslop will give evidence, as well as nurses, and a fourth returned traveller who will give evidence anonymously.
More than 99 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the state likely originated from just seven return travellers at two different hotels, the inquiry heard earlier this week.
A huge outbreak at the Rydges Hotel in Swanston St, Melbourne, thought to be the genesis of nine in 10 cases in the state, started with a family of four who returned to Australia in May.
The majority of remaining cases are linked to a smaller outbreak at the Stamford Plaza hotel that had two separate origins - one man and a couple who returned to Australia in June.
But the breaches that allowed the virus to escape from quarantine and spread in the community remain a mystery, with investigators unable to identify the exact moment of transmission in either outbreak, department of health epidemiologist Dr Charles Alpren said.
Originally published as Suicidal guest told 'stop being dramatic'