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Staff from contractor Spotless have been pulled from floor managing and customer service duties at Covid-19 quarantine hotels in Victoria, amid concerns about infections among staff working in the hotels.
Last week, the Saturday Paper reported cases of Covid-19 among staff at two quarantine hotels since the Victorian Department of Justice took over managing hotel quarantine at the beginning of August.
Victoria has not had any returning travellers since the end of June, but the so-called “hot hotels” or “health hotels” are being used to isolate people who have tested positive for Covid-19 who cannot isolate at home, and is being managed by Alfred Health.
This week, the government acknowledged there had been nine positive cases of Covid-19 among staff working in the hotels since the end of July, with the last reported case in late August.
The nine staff infected include five Spotless staff, two Alfred Health staff, one Department of Health and Human Services staff member and one Victoria police member.
The chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said on Wednesday the genomic data and contact tracing had not connected their infections to working in the hotels.
Spotless staff had been contracted by Alfred Health to perform floor-monitoring roles, and other customer service roles. But on Wednesday, it was decided Victoria police should have supervisory and floor-monitoring roles, and Spotless staff were removed from the hotels.
Up until now, Victoria police had been supervising in the hotels, including roving checks of each floor.
The other roles being performed by Spotless staff, including bag checks, will now be filled by the department’s trained staff.
Spotless will still provide cleaning services, with more training and infection control standards.
A spokeswoman for Spotless did not respond to questions on Covid-19 infections among staff, but said the company is “fully committed to supporting” hotel quarantine through its high touch point cleaning and pathogen cleaning.
“At Spotless, infection control is paramount and all Spotless staff who work on the program complete mandatory PPE [personal protective equipment] and infection prevention induction training and regular refresher training,” she said.
Guardian Australia reported in July that Spotless had been recruiting staff to work in hotel quarantine via temporary and casual employment recruitment app Sidekicker, despite the Victorian hotel quarantine inquiry hearing casual work was in part to blame for staff in the hotels working multiple jobs while infectious.
The Spotless spokeswoman said the cleaning staff in the hotels were directly employed by Spotless, and subcontractors were not used.
“One of many additional controls in place includes a requirement that staff must provide a daily declaration that they have not worked at another site in the 14 days prior to commencing their shift,” she said.
The Victorian Liberal shadow attorney general, Ed O’Donohue, wrote to the inquiry yesterday asking it to investigate evidence given by the Alfred chief operating officer Simone Alexander about the running of the current hot hotels program.
The inquiry will not be reopened for more evidence or hearings, but it will seek to clarify on some of the evidence provided, Guardian Australia understands.
Final submissions to the inquiry will likely be published next week, with the report due to the Victorian government on 6 November.
Source: The Guardian
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