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Covid Hindsight: Victoria acted on nightmare potential for system collapse

The press has been spattered in recent weeks with hindsight wisdom about Australia’s – and particularly Victoria’s – handling of the pre-vaccine pandemic. The relatively easy time we are having with COVID now and the low numbers of people being hospitalised with COVID are being used to argue that earlier restrictions were unnecessary but it is crucial to remember what the world looked like when those decisions were made.

Epidemics and pandemics are as much a matter of response and luck as nature. In an era of constant air travel, diseases can seed around the world long before they have been identified around their source. The original SARS incipient pandemic was stopped in its tracks because it was less easily spread, and manifested symptoms at the same time as becoming contagious. This allowed hotspots around the world to be scotched before they could explode. Ebola, while having a 50% mortality rate, faces similar constraints on its spread. Swine flu was similarly contagious to early variants of COVID-19, but turned out to be much milder.

Specialists knew that another global pandemic was due for some time. Each year or so in the decade/s leading up to 2020, another contender would emerge, only to avoid the characteristics that would drive the world to a halt.

COVID-19 provided a number of challenges. One is that it spread invisibly before cases were detected, contagious people often remaining asymptomatic or apparently suffering a mere cold. Initially the transmission mechanism was not clear. Could it be spread by fomites on surfaces or through the air? The science ultimately established that the former had little impact and the latter is key but knowledge about the coronavirus that caused SARS in 2002 – 2004 meant initial focus on fomites as the likely means of spread of the new coronavirus in 2020.

In the ocean of ignorance that surrounds a virus new – or novel – to human populations, it takes time to work out the strategies to limiting spread, preventing contraction, and treating.

The great fortune for limiting the duration of the worst impact of this pandemic was that vaccine science had some technologies ready to deploy. Coronaviruses are a common candidate for possible pandemics, so traditional technology could relatively easily transition from one strain to this new kind. The newest technology – MRNA – functions like a gin distillery. The standard “white spirit” of the base is infused with the “botanicals” of the particular virus as required. Worldwide scientific and bureaucratic convergence allowed honing, testing and production to take a fraction of the time without the usual lags produced by insufficient funds, competitive secrecy and official inertia. Without this readiness and removal of unnecessary roadblocks, the pandemic would have crippled us years longer.

 

Gravediggers open new graves as the number of dead rose after the COVID-19 outbreak in Brazil, 2020. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

As COVID emerged around the world, Australians came to see what it could do. The initial jetsetter cases were replaced by stories about people living in close confinement and often with the health issues deriving from poverty and living within a racist system.

Photos of refrigerated trucks on the streets of New York to take the overflow of corpses were matched with recordings of a city ringing with the doppler clash of competing sirens. Other photographs showed mass graves being dug in parkland to take the piling bodies that morgues couldn’t sustain. In Italy, churches filled with coffins and obituary notices took up multiple pages in newspapers in the country’s northeast.

And over all those images, we saw desperate medical workers exhausted and shattered by unending shifts of misery watching people destroyed by a virus that could be terrible; one that is exacerbated by the body’s own flailing immune system in a cytokine storm, attacking every organ including the skin.

India showed us most brutally what could happen if COVID was allowed to run without check. We read chilling stories of even the wealthy and powerful tweeting in search of oxygen supplies that had become impossible to find. Others that recounted the people driving from hospital to hospital as the mother of their small children suffocated in her own lungs, ultimately dying in a hospital carpark because every hospital was swamped. The sky was thick with the smoke of mass burnings. People became desperate within their homes, unable to work or afford food and medicine, as the brutal crackdown that followed the collapse of the system harshly worked to limit the duration of the nightmare.

 

Multiple funeral pyres of those who died of COVID-19 burn at a ground that has been converted into a crematorium for the mass cremation of coronavirus victims, in New Delhi, India, 2021 Credit: AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

The crisis of COVID was rarely the individual case. This is what made it so hard to convey to the inattentive the need for strong action. The crisis of COVID rests in percentages. For every 1,000 additional cases the greater the number who would need ambulances, hospitals and long-term intensive care.

Leading into the pandemic, Sydney had retained a stronger public health framework and emergency bed number compared to Victoria. Victoria’s had been savaged during the Kennett years and never been rebuilt, starting the pandemic with fewer than 20% of NSW’s public health officers. All the other states had even less capacity to cope. This fact allowed NSW more latitude in dealing with the pandemic than the other states.

Leading COVID specialists and epidemiologists have also speculated about the climate factors that allowed potential outbreaks in NSW to peter out. The temperature in NSW, for instance, allows many more months of open-door trading, ventilating businesses, in a way that is impossible in the cold of Melbourne and the extreme heat of the north of the country. When the much more contagious omicron strains emerged, NSW’s luck died too along with many citizens.

The Andrews’ government in Victoria was given a weekend to pick up most of the nation’s quarantine after the federal government threw NSW into turmoil over the Ruby Princess and abandoned its own responsibility to manage quarantine (seeing it as an unpopular aspect of pandemic management). Many aspects of the system did not function as well as we would hope and the acquisition of knowledge about what dangers lay in various systems, such as hotel quarantine, was painful.

Nurses are walking away from their jobs unable to cope due to gruelling work conditions. (Getty)

Premier Daniel Andrews saw the reports coming from the federal government’s chaotic private aged “care” system. There is no doubt he heard the accounts that emerged from first responders who have PTSD from the literal nightmare scenes they saw in some of those homes.

Lockdowns come in two forms, pre-emptive and reactive. Pre-emptive ones can come to seem pointless because they prevent the catastrophes that might have occurred. Reactive ones are of limited use, desperately trying to protect the overwhelmed systems crashing around them. In Britain, buses had to be converted into 4-case ambulances. People died who would not have in less chaotic times, and not just of COVID. Around the world, an estimated 10 million children have lost a parent or caregiver. Millions more are being ground down by long COVID symptoms.

In the vaccine era, we see a reduction in the risk of dying by about 90%. For the young and healthy, that means there will be very few deaths. But for those older and sicker people whose baseline risk was high, we continue to see high numbers of deaths with the current unchecked spread of COVID. These deaths are tragic, and the nation’s failure to continue easy steps such as masking in public may well prove to herald many more deaths. Variants continue to emerge, and we do not know what the next will bring.

As things stand, we may well face a desperate shortage of hospital beds as a result of staff shortages in years to come. We have proven ourselves demanding and ungrateful to the people who have battled to save our relatives in miserable work conditions.

In the meantime, it would be justice to remember all this and acknowledge that Victoria, and all the non-NSW states, made decisions based on the nightmare potential for system collapse and miserable death tolls before the vaccine era.

This was first published in Pearls and Irritations

This piece was written in cooperation with a leading Victorian Infectious Diseases specialist who continues to work with COVID.

 

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45 comments

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  1. Lucy Hamilton

    Before anyone leaps on board with Covid denial material, this was written in conjunction with an infectious diseases specialist with a PhD in respiratory infection, who worked on Covid throughout the worst of the pandemic (so far).

    Covid exists. The crisis lies in the number of cases, rather than the individual case. The more cases there are (in pre vaccine days in particular), the more pressure there is on the broader healthcare system.

  2. Phil Pryor

    Lucy writes an essential article to illustrate points, truths. I’ll never forgive Murdering Morrison nor the absolute idiots who defy logic, reason, truth. evidence, science. Loudmouthed idiots and dismal dimwits always abound, usually conservative crapheads.

  3. Andrew Smith

    Agree, and the broader and common problem of science denial, both Covid and climate, which according to DeSmog UK was not coincidental but a campaign using same modus operandi e.g. astroturfing website (based in Germany), science denial then attempts to block or delay of remedial measures, then arranging demonstrations under the guise of ‘freedom & liberty’ (for business to remain unconstrained); the latter is a red flag signifying Anglo or US ‘radical right libertarian’ influence joined at the hip with media.

    The DeSmog article was ‘How the UK’s Climate Science Deniers Turned Their Attention to COVID-19. The coronavirus crisis quickly divided the population between those putting their trust in public health experts and others quick to question the science. By Zak Derler Aug 10, 2020’.

    Further, if familiar with the radical right libertarian roots it’s masking another phenomenon, as outlined in The Atlantic July/August 2017 on the Koch’s economic muse James Buchanan (behind Friedman et al.) in ‘The Architect of the Radical Right. How the Nobel Prize–winning economist James M. Buchanan shaped today’s anti-government politics’ By Sam Tanenhaus.

    Not only draws on the segregation era research of historian Nancy MacLean in ‘Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America’ (& long game), but also indirectly Jane Mayer of New Yorker in ‘Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right’.

    Not only did Mayer use or coin the expression ‘not just changing what we think, but how we think (or not)’; but backgrounded by those e.g. 1% of political donors who follow their dictum ‘survival of fittest’ masquerading as science, in fact it’s deep seated eugenics.

  4. A Commentator

    It reasonable to point out that the virus leaked from Victorian hotel quarantine at 3 times the rate of the quarantine program in NSW
    It’s an issue that the Victorian government has not explained.
    Someone here might be able to.

  5. New England Cocky

    The abolition of the Epidemic Preparation Group by Toxic RAbbott early in his too long time as Prim Monster was the beginning of COALition failure to properly handle the COVID-19 pandemic. Now add the Ruby Princess cesspit of infection allowed to ”escape” into Sydney and the world by Scummo wanting his Hell$inger$ cult colleagues to get home in time for lunch and the abysmal, ill-informed purchase and distribution of vaccines that followed and I am surprised that Australia has got this far.
    .
    But wait, there’s more ….. back in the 90s Howard basically de-regulated the aged care industry allowing too many casual support staff and totally inadequate nursing staff, for the profit of operators.
    .
    A too long history of self-serving COALition misgovernment for the benefit of corporate mates and the detriment of Australian egalitarian community. Given this example of chronic mismanagement and maladministration,
    .
    I am amazed at PP’s unusually muted response to this disaster, but underwhelmed by AC ignoring the above evidence in a mindless attempt to blame Dan Andrews for the 1919 Spanish influenza pandemic ….. in the run up to the November 2023 Victorian elections.

  6. leefe

    AC:

    Or maybe we know about more Victorian leakages due to their stricter testing and the louder media coverage.
    Think about thte Ruby Princess debacle before you go pointing fingers. And remember that the states should not have been left to manage quarantine systems as that is a federal responsibility. Of course, Morrison and his croniies weren’t interested; perhaps it was ttoo much like hard work.

  7. Gav

    Having lived through a bout of the ‘covid’ thanks to an innate immunity system, I pose the question: Why didn’t Aus health authorities go out of their way to protect that small sector of the community (over 70yrs with muliple co-morbidities) who were then known to be most at risk to SARS CoV2, rather than shut down the whole economy and scream like banshees on the Megaphone Sycophant Media that the only way out was to race to market a new technology (mRNA) with no long term safety data?
    A secondary question, why is there still no animal trials into this new set of drugs labelled ‘vaccines’.
    In other words, where is the common sense in this situation?

  8. Lucy Hamilton

    I have left Gav’s comment up for the moment. Gav: Read the darned article before commenting. You would have failed a comprehension exercise at school. The whole first paragraph is the focus of the article. Go back and read it. Do better.

    The vaccines released for covid are also addressed in the article. Both kinds were science readiness in action. As I pointed out in the article, the speed was largely due to preparedness AND to the removal of the usual inefficiencies in the process. https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-covid-vaccine-animal-idUSL2N2NJ1IK

    Try listening to the science in my article direct from an expert, rather than gossip on the internet.

  9. Gav

    Lucy, I read your article and found it so far removed from the reality of what is going down that I thought the best option is to try and steer the arguments around this topic back on track, get the basics of the situation in line of sight and solutions will follow.
    You can remove my comment(s), no problem.

  10. Lucy Hamilton

    Well said, Leefe. I addressed AC’s comment in the article. The experts’ speculation about the mid climate of Sydney is interesting (long stretches with business doors opened, rather than shut for heating, air conditioning). They were speculating at the time that a combination of temperature/humidity might have been optimal for suppressing virulence. It may be due to the “island” geography of Sydney.

    One of the most frustrating things about the attacks on Victoria for the leaks is that they came from the private sector. The neoliberals of the LNP would tell you that the private sector does everything better and everything should be privatised. What we actually saw was that the company granted the contract creamed off the profit and subcontracted the work. The ultimate executor of the work had very little profit left to educate and train staff, and apparently did not see the seriousness of the task. The fact that this contradiction of their dearest held belief was ignored and the blame sheeted home to the public sector, and Andrews’ government, is vexing in the extreme.

    The Andrews government ended up with a weekend to organise quarantine. I couldn’t organise a wedding in a weekend, let alone life or death quarantine. It was federal gov business and they knew there was only downside to being responsible for it. (The vaccine was the upside and they tried to freeze state gov systems out, crippling the roll out.) While we thought fomites were more likely a coronavirus method of transmission, keeping hotels afloat does not seem stupid.

    Sydney’s quarantine program did not kick in till after they had the benefit of the Victorian “learnings.”

  11. Lucy Hamilton

    Gav, pet. What profession are you? The consultant on this piece is (a) a doctor with decades of experience (b) an infectious diseases consultant (c) PhD in respiratory infections (d) leads a main ID department (e) worked on and with the leading figures over Covid, as well as leading his department (e) worked on public education over the pandemic.

    Your sense that your time on YouTube can match that is a tragedy of hubris. Your sense that someone is off track is misguided in direction. Your failure to understand any of the factual information from the article underlines the direction that it is pointing.

  12. Lucy Hamilton

    Gav’s comment about immune systems provokes a line of thought that others might enjoy. The panic in the medical community about “novel” – or brand new to human systems – viruses is that they come without an immune system “map” to guide protection. We know many people who were in the peak of health – particularly before the vaccine – who were killed or knocked down for a protracted period by covid. It may be more than luck that one has a mild case. Variant, possibly genetics are at play.
    Meanwhile this on the destructive impact of flailing immune systems: https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/how-self-targeted-immune-attacks-may-lurk-behind-l

  13. A Commentator

    I think more research is required by leefe and Lucy about the leakage from hotel quarantine.
    It wasn’t about the media reporting or transmission. It was the rate of leaked cases per person in hotel quarantine.
    The data was not contested by the Victorian government.
    It’s simply a fact
    And other states were under pressure to organise quarantine. It was not unique to Victoria.
    Did anyone note the findings of the state government injury, that found “systemic failure”?

  14. New England Cocky

    Another excellent article, Lucy Hamilton.

    AIMN (Michael Taylor) allows every comment as a democratic principle. Consequently, the comments from some readers read like ”The World According to Facebook/Tik-Tok/Twitter/etc”. This information is rusted into the minds of their proponents with an absolute Biblical faith that only followers of Trumpery could understand.

    The Victorian Mutt Guy LIARBRALS are desperate for political relevance, so between now and the Victorian elections we must expect the usual barrage unproductive misleading hate mails generated by computer bots and the few declining number of followers needing to get outside more than they do to see the reality of social progress under the Andrews LABOR government.

  15. Lucy Hamilton

    AC: the point was that we were first to take on quarantine while they still understood the transmission to be primarily fomite-based as per the viral genre. (See the article.) With hindsight, you would never choose hotels for an aerosol-transmitting virus. The fact of opening the door to a hotel room made it dangerous. You are ahistorical to say that it was concurrent across the states. Yes, no doubt mistakes were made. They had a weekend to organise it. Human error is a natural factor in crises. To deny the impact of well-meaning error is unreasonable.

  16. New England Cocky

    @AC: Uhm ….. ”And other states were under pressure to organise quarantine. It was not unique to Victoria.
    Did anyone note the findings of the state government injury, that found “systemic failure”?”

    Why did Scummo & the COALition misgovernment ignore the Australian Constitution ”s51(ix) Quarantine”? Oh silly me, this could have been a Biblical experiment in eugenics to remove the undeserving poor, just like in America …..

  17. Lucy Hamilton

    Gav, your comments are silly now. I am trashing them. You are so far out of your field of expertise that it is embarrassing. This expert trumps you in every conceivable way. The fact that your don’t realise “respiratory infection” is covid speaks volumes. You do not have the context to be able to assess these “experts” you mention and everything you have said says you don’t understand the problem. (One of the early “experts” of the anti-science movement was a gastroenterologist who had no idea. Most are similar or aggrieved/rogues making money/clout on the anti-science talk circuit.) As the title of the piece alone says, it was not each individual case that caused the shutdown of the planet. It was the overload on the medical systems by percentage. Heart attacks and strokes and car accidents didn’t get hospital beds in places around the world where hospitals were crushed with the percentage of covid cases that needed hospitalisation.

  18. Phil Pryor

    The lack of comprehension disappoints and irritates, when what is known and can be affirmed is.., that the Morrison government through the failed Hunt and to cover the failed Colbeck, pushed for private firms, some connected with the evils in Nauru’s poor administration of refugees, to provide “security” , pushed through quickly and stupidly including the hiring of untrained staff, casualisation, often of known oafs. These private employees brough covid, spread it, did not understand fundamentals of air conditioning and spreading, did not adhere to safety requirements of mask wearing, did not obey many requirements in favour of lazy shortcuts. The Victorian government, its own medical professionals and hospital system stretched, had been coerced, but took it up as it appeared to save and solve.., and appeared to deflect responsibility. Federal responsibility for quarantine was criminally neglected and Morrison would be shot as a traitor in perfectly civilised countries. Hunt and Colbeck have crawled away from politics in shame and disgrace, and the situation here is mainly why. Casual private employees are NOT suitable as vehicles of safety and security at all. That is simply real, fact. Meanwhile the brainless Dutton was then head of a complicated system of federal office holding, and presided over the distasteful farce of the Ruby Princess spreading covid to kick it all off, and thus giving his untrustworthy collaborator Glad B, a suitable nickname for her own shamed crawling away from political life. Finally, what is a gav, relentlessly disseminating sheer ignorance?? Gutless, Arid, Vicious??

  19. A Commentator

    ~ The constitution provides the head of power. It doesn’t mean the federal government has to carry out the function.
    ~ It does mean the Commonwealth can legislate responsibility, which happened about a decade ago. The federal government, with the agreement of the states legislated to recognise that the states held most of the public health resources. States acknowledged this in agreeing to arrange their own quarantine programs.
    ~ The federal cabinet recognised that a federal government “one size fits all” program would be unsatisfactory.

  20. A Commentator

    Lucy, the government had to mobilise the program at short notice.
    Early mistakes can be accepted, but the government didn’t return to adequately review and repair the program, despite evidence of non compliance.
    That was the negligence
    There is no defence to a safety breach that can be excused because “we were in a hurry” particularly those breaches that occur after the initial mobilisation

  21. Clakka

    Great article. Despite its clarity, there appear to be couple of commentators that wish to hang on to an imputed ‘blame Dan’ scenario. They prompt me to respond:

    Morrison’s mob were slow out of the blocks and devious in denials of their arrogant penny-pinching mismanagement of vaccine procurement and deployment.

    The Ruby Princess debacle initiating a rapid viral spread across the country resulted from a compounding set of bungles (and / or interventions) by Morrison’s mob at both State & Federal level.

    Morrison’s ‘National Cabinet’ became a political peer-pressure club, and operated via his droogs as cover to assign blame on party-political rivals at State level. If not for the collective of Health Officials, it would have been an utter debacle.

    Morrison’s reach into NSW politics saw a State process out of the blocks at a snail’s pace, and rather than providing demographic security, in an arrogant and divisive manner, isolated, neglected, blamed and brutalised those in the (western) engine room, almost shutting down the State’s vital processing and distribution system (for the entire country).

    Morrison’s complete abrogation of the federal responsibility for quarantine (further guile and penny-pinching) left States with no choice but to step in and do the best they could with the resources at hand.

    Driven by matters above, and the high risk Melbourne winter conditions, with no alternative, Victoria’s dire need for quarantine had to be met urgently. To facilitate security control personnel, Morrison’s mob provided the use of contractors already (NSW & federal) approved. Those contractors (as Lucy stated above), subcontracted out their responsibilities, without adequate (or any) training, health oriented protocols, or even PPE. Thus the “leakage”.

    Rather than act responsibly as a uniting national figurehead, Morrison and his mob increased its divisive rhetoric, and politically oriented blame-game. The States (in the shadow of the ‘National Cabinet’) went their own ways, negotiating and operating directly with each other – it worked, despite the ongoing streams of divisive claptrap from the feds.

    Morrison and his mob were left only to dole out on trust, ship-loads of money to the aligned queue of ever-so-needy corporations, and ooops, yet another bungle, forgot the (Robodebt) claw-back clause – something they’re apparently good at.

    In the end, this deadly saga, was amongst root background noises in the near obliteration of the NSW Liberal Party, and the ultimate demise of the Morrison government – hoist by his own petard.

  22. Lucy Hamilton

    Sure AC. It might turn out overall that more rapid response to mistakes was a key flaw. The point overall is that no system is perfect in the face of fairly sudden and (then) partially understood crisis. They saved car accident victims (etc etc) their ability to get a hospital bed. The scenes from US, UK, Italy, India, South America etc must be remembered when we evaluate our own responses.

  23. Lucy Hamilton

    Excellent points, Clakka

  24. Canguro

    Phil Pryor, you ask what is a gav? Could it be be short for a gavel; a wooden tool, dense, blunt, clod-like, a pointless thing apart from making loud banging sounds that irritate? Gavels abound in the caverns of internet communication chambers, their annoying & unsubtle timbres echoing repeatedly & endlessly, unsettling, the waves of ignorance washing over those with more sensitive ears, eyes and minds.

  25. Phil Pryor

    We should be friends in comment, aiming to instruct, open, enlighten, illustrate, solve. Less, deliberately, is far less.

  26. A Commentator

    The key reason that the government was negligent is- they failed to respond to numerous reports of serious non compliance, procedural errors and poor oversight. There was clear evidence of systemic failure well before the government’s inquiry made that finding.
    The government had the significant resources of Worksafe and didn’t deploy them to training and oversight. Those resources were underutilized at the time because industry was pretty well closed
    There are no excuses for a significant proportion of the failures

  27. Steve Davis

    Once again, as he has in the past, AC gives us troubling insights as to his character.

    I’m surprised, given AC’s wealth of knowledge on a wide range of subjects, and the extraordinary strength of his convictions, that AC is not in a position of power or influence, instead of being an occasional blog commenter hiding behind anonymity.

  28. leefe

    I now wait for AC to apply the same rigorous standards of evaluation to both the federal and NSW governments’ handling of the pandemic. Objectively and even-handedly, of course.

  29. A Commentator

    leefe, I’m in Victoria, and not in NSW. So I haven’t followed or experienced the events there. I understand that the Victorian government had to establish the hotel quarantine program in a hurry. But I simply find it incompressible that they didn’t then review operations, when there were so many examples of non compliance.
    As I said they had an underutilised public health and safety organisation available to provide systems, training and oversight.
    It appears to be that several government ministers prefered to remain ignorant of the operation of hotel quarantine.
    Effective is about taking control of a crisis That didn’t happen

  30. Lucy Hamilton

    AC if you go back and read the article, you’ll note that public health capacity in Victoria had never been rebuilt after Kennett’s savaging.

    It is crucial to take into account that a government was thrust into crisis and felt obliged to make overwhelming decisions to prevent excess deaths and healthcare/ aged-care system collapse. This is not normal times. They weren’t sitting around and calculating in calm and measured times. (My husband, who runs a small business, spent hours on a holiday in early March 2020 on the phone scrambling to organise one aspect the capacity increase that the health department in Vic needed to start addressing the crisis.) I’m surprised that anyone thinks the early months of a crisis expanding exponentially unless stopped, with all the monumental ramifications, would be calm and measured.

    The point is that it was only the appallingly organised private aged-care sector that fell to pieces, causing awful harm and too many deaths. That system has been destroyed by the federal government – and Australia’s private aged-care sector provides the highest profits for investors – in the world? – as a result. We want our grandparents farmed for investor profit and CEO bonuses? The fact that the same crisis did not happen in state-run aged-care is indicative.

    There were problems, but we were lucky to have far fewer deaths than other countries. We Victorians suffered, but we were also the trial state for the nation.

  31. Canguro

    To quote a commentator, finding something ‘incompressible’ must be the very definition of a liquid statement, which in turn must be the very definition of saying something which has no firm form or meaning. But perhaps I’m mistaken?

    Lucy, you’d know this better than me, but I recall at the time of the peak of deaths in private nursing homes in Victoria a pair of operators were named and I suppose shamed, and I was struck by the reference to their vehicles; I seem to recall one drove a Rolls Royce and the other a Lamborghini or something similar. One couldn’t help but note the extraordinary juxtaposition of these opulent and ostentatious displays bordering on arrogance of the wealth at their disposal and the fact that by and large it came from a client base now demonstrably unprotected and at the complete mercy of a raging & virulent outbreak of a rapidly expanding and poorly contained disease. Akin in a certain relative sense to a recent story published in the Guardian of an aged care facility in Britain, the Reigate Grange in Surrey, where an 88 year old woman, herself an ex-nurse, was paying close to 100,000 quid a year for her accommodation and care and was being physically abused by staff. It’s tragic, either example, and demonstrates the vulnerability that accompanies the passage into the final years of one’s life.

    A couple of decades ago, I knew a guy who was a manager of a private retirement village with on-site nursing care facilities on the northern beaches in Sydney; without judgement, but I knew he was very well-compensated; his car was an expensive luxury model, his wife owned thoroughbred horses and attended dressage lessons… their lifestyle had a kind of ‘money to burn’ sense to it. Years ago I worked as a psych nurse; spent countless time with elderly folk in geriatric wards; the thought of these old frail people being the source of wealth for entrepreneurs is a bit stomach-churning, to be frank.

  32. A Commentator

    Lucy, the ALP has been in government for 19 of the 23 years since Kennett was in office.
    If the public health system has struggled, who do you think is responsible?
    I’m not downplaying the challenges of covid, but when the inquiry found”systemic failure” that speaks for itself.
    The government was aware of non compliance, it has the resources to address (at least) the obvious system failures, it neglected to take action
    By any definition, that’s a failure of leadership
    …and you’ll notice that I don’t seek to defend the clear incompetence demonstrated by the federal government, but you seem keen to excuse the incompetence of the state government.

  33. Phil Pryor

    Using one’s anus as a telescope does not give clarity of hindsight, Surely it clouds the view. Would a report of Belsen in 1947, and argued over, save any lives murderously lost in 1944? Hunt, Colbeck, Morrison, and as patron of it, Jack Howard, are murderously involved and many will never forget or forgive. As for Kennett, the Human Haemorrhoid, he was and still is criminally incompetent.

  34. Michael Taylor

    … instead of being an occasional blog commenter hiding behind anonymity.

    Good point, Steve.

    Perhaps we should give him a name. It’s a toss-up between Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn, as he is a combination of both.

  35. Harry Lime

    Thanks Clakka ,for that nice little reminder of the Liar’s character flaws,which we all know,are legion.His toxicity is ongoing,and doesn’t look like abating anytime soon.Some people have the recall of a jackass with dementia,which will be duly demonstrated as the pile up of enquiries unfolds.

  36. Phil Pryor

    My silly joke on “hindsight” was not aimed at anyone here, just play with the word “hind.” May we see future improved old aged care, genuine federal quarantine preparation, state/federal collaboration, more responsibility and no more Hunts, Colbecks, Morrisons, looking for patsies and scapegoats and passing on poisoned chalices. Finally, privatising and its profiteering are real EVILS, and CURSES.

  37. Mike Smith

    They did what needed to be done considering the circumstances, which were dire at the time.
    Just imagine for a second if it went the other way and thousands died.
    If you want to gamble do it with money, not people’s lives if you don’t know what the result may be.

  38. Lucy Hamilton

    That hurts, Cangaru. Oof. Our elders should not be farmed.

    Agreed, Mike.

  39. Steve Davis

    Actually Michael, I might have run into AC on another site, operating under a proper name.

    Same style, same persistence in the face of adversity. (chuckle)

  40. Lucy Hamilton

    AC exposed? So tempting! (Joke)

  41. Terence Mills

    Here we go again !

    A floating petri-dish in the form of The Majestic Princess, docks in Sydney this morning with four thousand passengers and crew of whom eight hundred are confirmed as having COVID.

    This now puts severe stress on the NSW health authorities to attend at the docks and carry out tests on passengers before they disperse to all points of the compass.

    There is something wrong that our state resources should be put under this sort of pressure : I hope that the cruise ship owners are being billed for services provided.

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