NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has apologised for the “hurt, stress and trauma” caused by the mistakes of NSW Health involved in the Ruby Princess coronavirus scandal after spending the weekend reading a 315-page report.
She also promised to “act immediately” to address failures identified by the Commission of Inquiry run by barrister Bret Walker SC, whose report was published on Friday.
But exactly what work is being carried out was absent from a short statement. And many victims, who are planning legal action, are almost certain to demand more transparency.
Some 22 people died and over 700 caught COVID-19 thanks to bungles in handling the release of passengers last March. Not only should they not have left the ship until tests were carried out, but the results were unnecessarily delayed – and even their instructions to isolate were incorrect, leading guests to travel home and overseas unchecked.
The Walker inquiry identified “serious”, “inexcusable” and “inexplicable” mistakes by health officials.
According to the statement: “NSW Health has acted immediately to address the failures identified by Mr Walker to ensure the errors are not repeated.
“The NSW Government will work closely with the Commonwealth to adopt all recommendations made by Mr Walker.”
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the report identified a number of concerning mistakes.
“Over the weekend I reviewed the Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess, and it is clear mistakes were made by NSW Health and others,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“I recognise the hurt and suffering these mistakes caused, and I apologise for that.
“These issues occurred during an extraordinary time of great uncertainty, and as we navigate this pandemic we will continue to learn from mistakes and where we could have done better.
“We have learned from the Ruby Princess and the public can have confidence we will avoid such a situation occurring again.”
Ms Berejiklian said given the ongoing pandemic, she expected the recommendations relating to NSW to be implemented as soon as possible, and work to begin immediately with the Federal Government on the other recommendations.
A criminal investigation is being carried out by NSW police into the incident.
Police Commission Mick Fuller told The Sydney Morning Herald: “There are tens of thousands of documents that have been sourced. There are surveys and interviews. I think there’s 1,200 people so far that have given interviews.”
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said staff had “identified in hindsight they would have made a different decision”, but she added staff had been under pressure at the time from the large number of Covid-19 cases.
The Walker investigation, which highlighting a number of failures, made surprisingly few recommendations as to what should be done.
The case has already divided Cruise Passenger readers, with many saying heads should roll.
Here are some of the comments:
Lisa Zietlow WillardCongrats to those passengers who jumped on a plane, train or bus, went home after stocking up on essentials & isolated for two weeks. You did as you were advised not knowing this was inadequate information from Mr Hazard’s dept. Congrats to the ships doctor for being exonerated. Why does Mr Health Hazard still have his job? Ministers get sacked for less?
Anne McLennanI disagree with angry blaming of NSW Health, as I disagreed with the blame levelled at Princess. The blame lies solely with the Virus itself. There were NO protocols in place to deal with the situation that arose. Protocols were still being formed as the virus was invading the country by air and sea. Hotel quarantine was not yet a thing. The virus got ahead of the protocols. Apologies have already been made. Individuals within government departments were doing their best with advice that was available at the time, which is still the case today.