A Victorian hotel quarantine guest escaped to the ground floor lobby while a security guard was “looking down at his phone”, an inquiry has been told.
The breach was among the complaints levelled by hotel managers about the work of privately contracted security guards at a judicial inquiry into the botched program on Friday.
Stephen Ferrigno, the general manager at the Four Points by Sheraton, told the inquiry he was unsatisfied by the response of the security company and government officials after a guest escaped to the lobby on 25 June.
Ferrigno said CCTV footage showed the guard was looking down at his phone while the guest entered the 10th floor lift.
The Sheraton manager complained to the Department of Health and Human Services but did not receive a response, the inquiry heard, while the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions referred him to the security company.
The employee was eventually fired, the inquiry was told, though Ferrigno insisted that throughout the program guards were “passive” and distracted.
Shaun D’Cruz, a manager at Crown, told the inquiry he had complained to DHHS over evidence of smoking in the fire stairwells.
He also recounted another incident in which guards had taken towels from the hotel pantries to have naps in the corridor.
“They were not permitted to go into that area,” he said.
D’Cruz said the issue was “managed appropriately” and did not happen again.
The contracting of private security guards is a focus of the inquiry chaired by former judge Jennifer Coate.
One guard who contracted Covid-19 at Rydges on Swanston, the hotel linked to an estimated 90% of cases since May, told the inquiry last week he had been hired through WhatsApp with minimal screening.
He said he had only been given one mask and a single pair of gloves for an entire shift, which he was told to stuff in his pockets out of view of security cameras.
On Thursday, the inquiry heard a guard at Crowne Plaza was fired after slipping a note under a guest’s door that said “Hey hun, add me on snapchat”.
Ferrigno claimed the guards at Four Points by Sheraton spent “a lot of time” watching content or having conversations on their phones and suggested the company failed to take action.
However, under cross examination by Emily Golshtein for MSS Security, Ferrigno acknowledged he was not aware of how the company had counselled or reprimanded its staff.
He also accepted that the company had fired the guard responsible for the 25 June breach.
Retelling the June incident to the inquiry, Ferrigno said he had been sitting in the lobby for a meeting when he noticed a man walking across the area without shoes.
Ferrigno said the man, who was not wearing a mask correctly, had insisted on having a fresh air break.
He was escorted back to his room by security after about a minute.
But CCTV footage captured the breach, which Ferrigno relayed in painstaking detail.
“The guard is not wearing his mask and is looking at his phone,” Ferrigno said. “As the guest presses the lift button to go down to the ground floor, the lift arrives.
“The guest enters the lift and at that point the CCTV shows the guard looking up as the doors close.
“The guest proceeded directly to the ground floor from level 10 and then out to the ground floor lobby.”
A mental health nurse later attended to the guest.
The inquiry continues.
Source: The Guardian