A furious Dr Brett Sutton went into meltdown after finding out he wasn’t consulted about Victoria’s hotel quarantine farce which went onto cost the state more than 800 lives and $195million
- Victoria’s chief medical officer Professor Brett Sutton was angry at being left out
- Dr Sutton was forced to make another statement to inquiry this month
- Health department boss Kim Peake quit the day Dr Sutton filed his statement
- Dr Sutton came under fire for failing to disclose emails to the hotel inquiry
- A bundle of new documents has now been handed over to the hotel inquiry
Victoria‘s chief medical officer Dr Brett Sutton was furious after learning he had been cut out of the crucial decision to implement the state’s disastrous hotel quarantine program.
The hissy fit was exposed after Dr Sutton was made to hand over a series of emails he had failed to cough-up during the public inquiry into Victoria’s COVID-19 hotel quarantine efforts.
The inquiry came to a close last month without ascertaining who actually made the decision to employ the private security guards that caused Victoria’s second deadly wave of COVID-19.
Victoria’s chief medical officer Dr Brett Sutton was rightfully annoyed when he found out he had been cut out of the decision making process on what to do with returning travellers
Board of inquiry chair, retired judge Jennifer Coate, handed the interim findings to Governor Linda Dessau this month
Health minister Jenny Mikakos resigned soon after and Premier Daniel Andrews’ right hand man Chris Eccles quit.
It can now be revealed health department secretary Kym Peake quit the same day Dr Sutton made his second affidavit to the inquiry.
The disastrous hotel quarantine scheme cost the state about $195million and the lives of more than 800.
In an email sent to Euan Wallace – who replaced Ms Peake as the Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) – on April 13, Dr Sutton expresses his displeasure at being left out of the loop.
‘Operation Soteria was — as an illustration — set up and put into place through EMV / State controller without even getting my approval or even input,’ he wrote.
‘Annaliese was similarly excluded. That, in and of itself, is astounding to us. It was seen as an almost wholly logistic exercise and had EM governance without an understanding of where accountability sat, or perhaps should sit.’
Dr Sutton had been asked to handover the emails after it was revealed he had been told about the quarantine plans on the day they were conceived.
The Board gave him just seven days to submit a second statement explaining his previous evidence that he was unaware private security had been used in hotels until much later.
Tony Neal QC, the counsel assisting Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry, said the emails had not been produced by Victoria’s health department despite it being asked to hand over everything that related to the program.
When questioned about the email exchange last month, Professor Sutton told reporters the detail had ‘not registered’ with him.
Kym Peake fell on her sword the same day Dr Brett Sutton provided a new statement to the inquiry
Victoria’s disastrous hotel quarantine program caused COVID-19 to break loose into the community and killed hundreds of elderly people
Victoria is preparing to take on international arrivals, which will be housed again at hotels and at home
Recommendations for hotel quarantine
Hotels be sufficiently placed close to a hospital
Be within commuting distance for adequate numbers of skilled workers
Allow for the physical separation of people
Properly implement all necessary infection control requirements
Capacity to make necessary modifications and additions to minimise the risk of transmission
Provide safe access to outside areas for fresh air and exercise breaks
Provide for specific needs such as mobility issues or the need to cater for infants
Dr Sutton had initially told the inquiry he believed private security was the ‘wrong cohort’ for the state’s bungled hotel quarantine scheme.
‘The mandatory quarantine regimen was a policy recommendation of National Cabinet, for all jurisdictions to put into place under relevant legislation. For us, that means that the CHO nominates and authorises an authorised officer to write a direction,’ Dr Sutton continued in the email.
‘In this case, Annaliese wrote the direction so was effectively the ‘maker’ of the entire scheme and has responsibility in law for it.
‘I agree that everyone is trying to work constructively in this space. But there is clearly a disconnect with our EM colleagues, perhaps especially in EMV who understood their role as controller of the scheme and effectively excluded those with significant accountability.
‘That is a source of unease – moral and legal! Happy to chat through further when I’m done this arvo.’
At the conclusion of the inquiry, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews apologised for his government’s disastrous decision to use private security guards at quarantine hotels.
‘Mistakes have been made in this program and answers are required,’ Mr Andrews said.
Just weeks ago Hotel Quarantine Board of Inquiry chair, retired judge Jennifer Coate, published 69 steps that ought allow the state to re-open to international travellers.
As Victoria prepares to open up its gates to international arrivals, a report has made dozens of recommendations to help avoid another disaster
The recommendations were provided to expedite the return of international travellers to Victoria.
Quarantine breaches involving private security guards seeded 99 per cent of Victoria’s deadly second wave of COVID infections, which killed more than 800 elderly Victorians.
The Board’s final report, which will contain a full examination, findings and recommendations in respect of the decisions and actions taken in establishing and operating Victoria’s disastrous Hotel Quarantine Program, will be published just days before Christmas after further submissions from key government figures was required.
An interim report released on November 6 stated Victoria’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions spent about $133.4 million to June 30 on the doomed hotel scheme.
Victoria’s health department spent a further $51.288 to September 16 while the justice department spent about $10.90 million to September 30.
Among the recommendations are that the Chief Commissioner of Police be requested to provide a 24/7 police presence on-site at each quarantine facility.
The inquiry had heard Victoria Police had not been keen to take on responsibility for the hotel quarantine role.
The hotel quarantine inquiry has recommended international arrivals to Victoria be quarantined both in hotels and, for lower-risk returned travellers, at home.
It further recommended the government consider electronically monitoring those quarantining at home using smartphone technology or ankle monitoring systems.
The Board suggested the responsible Minister and Quarantine Governing Body ensure that infection prevention and control expertise be embedded in each hotel, together with the necessary clinical personnel, to meet the mental and physical health needs of people in quarantine.
‘All personnel working at the facility (ought) not work across multiple quarantine sites and not work in other forms of employment,’ it recommended.
In May and June, dozens of security guards ended up catching coronavirus from quarantined returned travellers while working in the hotels.
It is understood Victoria’s second wave made it into aged care homes by security guards working multiple jobs.
The Board stated every effort should be made to have personnel working at quarantine facilities employed on salaries with terms and conditions that address the possible need to self-isolate in the event of an infection.
It further recommended the government consider a range of new penalties, including penalising any person who knowingly entered a place where a person has been directed to home quarantine.
Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles quit after it was revealed he had spoken to Victoria Police chief Graham Ashton about hotel security
Former Health minister Jenny Mikakos resigned soon after she appeared at the hotel inquiry. She has since taken pot shots at her former colleagues from the cheap seats
Private security guards outside of the Stamford Plaza Hotel in Melbourne during the pandemic
Ms Coate stated hotels remained a ‘reasonable and viable option’ for international arrivals given there were currently no identified specific purpose-built quarantine facilities in Victoria.
But this time there ought be’ clear control and accountability structures’ in place for its operation at both a ministerial and departmental level.
During the inquiry, a swag of ministers and department staffers made it clear no-one quite knew who was in charge and who held responsibility for key decision making.
Mr Eccles had suggested the decision to use private security was likely made by a ‘collective’ of government officials.
The interim report has called on the government to ensure that the minister and department approved as the single agency to be accountable for the operation of the Quarantine Program was the department that is the sole agency responsible for any necessary contracts.
‘The Site Manager be responsible for ensuring that all personnel working on-site are inducted into a culture of safety, focused on infection prevention and control provided by those with the expertise to deliver such training,’ it stated.
All people in quarantine, whether at a hotel or home-based, should be tested on as directed by the Chief Health Officer, it stated.
Contact tracing would also need to be up-to-scratch, with a Quarantine Governing Body ensuring that each quarantine facility had a contact tracing unit embedded in it.