October 16, 2021

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Dan Andrews’ Department of Health Charged With 58 Offences Over Hotel Quarantine System Screw-Up

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Dan Andrews' Department of Health Charged With 58 Offences Over Hotel Quarantine System Screw-Up

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ Department of Health has been charged with 58 offences over the bungled hotel quarantine system which led to the state’s 112-day lockdown last year.

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, WorkSafe alleged the department breached health and safety laws when it ran the state’s hotel quarantine system from March to July 2020. 

The virus was carried outside the hotel system by under-trained staff – many of whom had second jobs – and led to the longest lockdown the country has seen so far.  

If found guilty by a tribunal, the agency would be forced to cough up payments of up to $95.12million. 

The department has been charged with 17 offences of failing to provide a safe working environment.

It has also been hit with 41 charges of failing to ensure employees weren’t exposed to risks to their health and safety. 

WorkSafe alleges the hotel quarantine system put authorized employees and security guards at risk of serious illness or death by contracting Covid.  

The agency’s investigation has taken 15 months to complete and has reviewed tens of thousands of documents and recorded multiple witness interviews with staff. 

WorkSafe alleges security guards weren’t provided with proper infection control training and were only provided written instructions for the use of PPE rather than demonstration. 

‘A review of the material from last year’s COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry provided relevant context and information that informed parts of the investigation,’ the Health Department’s statement said.

‘The decision to prosecute has been made in accordance with WorkSafe’s General Prosecution Guidelines, which require WorkSafe to consider whether there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction and whether bringing a prosecution is in the public interest.’

The investigations included examinations of the hotels and security companies that were used by Dan Andrews’ government as part of the system. 

They also spoke to other government departments and agencies as part of the investigation. 

The matter will have a hearing at the Magistrate’s Court on October 22, with WorkSafe saying they will make no further comment. 

Victoria’s COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry led by former judge Jennifer Coate released its final report in December last year after 90% of the cases from the state’s second wave were linked to the bungled hotel quarantine system.

The investigations included examinations of the hotels and security companies that were used by Dan Andrews’ government as part of the system. 

They also spoke to other government departments and agencies as part of the investigation. 

The matter will have a hearing at the Magistrate’s Court on October 22, with WorkSafe saying they will make no further comment. 

Victoria’s COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry led by former judge Jennifer Coate released its final report in December last year after 90% of the cases from the state’s second wave were linked to the bungled hotel quarantine system.

The state’s health minister at the time Jenny Mikakos and her secretary Kym Peake resigned before the final report was released, with Premier Andrews saying he would have expected them to resign after the report was released anyway. 

The dispute over the decision to use private security instead of police and defence force personnel was a huge topic of contention, with Ms Coate describing that policy as ‘an orphan, with no person or department claiming responsibility’. 

The premier instead said at the time it was ‘less about who was engaged’ and more about the ‘lack of oversight’ in the hotel quarantine system. 

‘If I could then get the daily report that I get now then I would, I would prefer I had that detailed information in an ongoing sense.

‘That would allow us to take action so things did not escalate with the virus running wild, with the only remedy of which is to lock the place down.’ 

Where would the $95.12million fine go? 

WorkSafe is a Victorian Government agency but is not funded by taxpayer dollars.

Instead, it charges premiums from WorkCover, insurance employers pay to fund compensation to workers injured on the job.

It also levies fines for unsafe work practices and draws income from various investments.

Should the Victorian Health Department be convicted and fined for the hotel quarantine charges, the money will go to WorkSafe.

WorkSafe will use the fine to pay its staff and operating costs, compensate injured workers, and keep WorkSafe premiums down.

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