Security guards were pelted with fruit and a chair and witnessed a guest run from her room and attack a nurse before police intervened, according to a security boss.
“I heard screams,” said Mo Nagi, the Victorian operations manager at Unified Security Group, as he recounted the dramatic incident to the Victorian hotel quarantine inquiry on Thursday.
In June, two guests at the Crown Metropol, a man and a woman, were in adjacent rooms and each appeared to be experiencing mental health issues, Mr Nagi said.
One of them had thrown apples and oranges at security guards, and the next day threw a chair and more apples at the guards.
Police were called to the two rooms and spoke to the male guest, but after the female guest refused to open her door, the officers left briefly to plan a forced entry while Mr Nagi made a phone call.
His security supervisor and a nurse were left outside the guest’s door.
“In a nutshell the guest came out and started to attack the nurse,” Mr Nagi said. “I heard screams, I heard my name, ‘Mo!’, I came out and saw the guest chasing the nurse down the hallway.”
“She ended up getting the nurse into a closed off area and started hitting the nurse.”
Mr Nagi said he intervened, grabbing the guest and restraining her, before police reached the scuffle and jumped on top of both of them.
“She then assaulted police and was removed … she went to the Alfred Hospital, she was released and brought back to the hotel six hours later.”
Nothing else that “extreme” happened in quarantine but police were called on a few occasions if guests tried to escape, Mr Nagi said.
Asked if he would work in hotel quarantine again Mr Nagi said “yes, definitely, really enjoyed the program itself” but added it may have been better if Victoria Police, not private security, was the first line of enforcement
“If we had them as the lead and us supporting them I think that would probably have been really beneficial,” he said.
POSITIVE GUESTS TOLD THEY COULD LEAVE
A couple were so close to leaving hotel quarantine their bags had been put in a taxi by security guards before authorities realised one of them had tested positive for COVID-19, the inquiry heard.
The near miss happened at the Crown Promenade on May 23, according to details in an email tendered to the inquiry.
A guard was sent up to collect the guests at 5pm and handled their bags, not knowing one of them was positive.
It wasn’t until the guests were signing paperwork to be released from quarantine that the authorised officer at the hotel realised they were positive and asked a guard to take them back up to their room.
The positive test was not indicated on the paperwork provided by DHHS, the email said.
Following the incident two security guards were forced to get tested and self-isolate.
GUARDS ASKED TO BUY TOYS, DELIVER FOOD
Guards employed in Melbourne’s hotel quarantine program were asked to help with housekeeping, deliver food and to buy toys for children in quarantine.
Mr Nagi said he fielded bizarre requests from staff at one hotel and the government – though he declined to help with most housekeeping duties to ensure his staff would have no contact with anyone in quarantine.
“We had the general manager of one hotel advising she would like us to assist with collecting linen, going into the rooms unblocking toilets, also delivering food as required,” he told the Melbourne hotel quarantine inquiry on Thursday.
“Once I was notified with that, I said we will assist in certain areas where we will not engage with the guests whatsoever. However, this wasn’t our duties and they need to look at that.”
Guards were then tasked to help with food deliveries and things like “delivering a water bottle in the middle of the night”.
Mr Nagi said he believed he was asked to have his staff help as the hotel itself was short staffed at the time, while there were many security guards on the ground.
The operations manager was later asked by the Victorian Government to have staff go to Toy World in Docklands and buy toys on an account set up by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions for children in the quarantine hotels.
Mr Nagi said a van owned by the company, which was being used to store PPE, was used to buy the presents.
“As we had a Unified Security van located at Promenade, which was filled with PPE, we were asked if we could assist in collecting toys, because there was young children in hotels who didn’t have toys,” he said.
“So as we had the van there, I was asked and I said I was happy to assist.
“We then had two of our senior team members attend Toy World in Docklands and the Department of DJPR created an account in a sense, and we were given a brief of what amount we could spend on each toy.”
Mr Nagi said the workers then drove around to the hotels to drop off the presents and provided a receipt to the DJPR.
Nigel Coppick, the Victorian state manager for Unified, also revealed the company was asked to provide 40 guards per day on the day before the quarantine program started, but the request had turned to 200 guards per day by the end of an induction meeting just hours later.
SECURITY ‘DIDN’T KNOW GUESTS HAD COVID’
A security boss who staffed several Melbourne quarantine hotels says he was told any returned traveller who tested positive to COVID-19 would be taken to hospital and didn’t realise that was untrue until one of his staff contracted the virus.
MSS Security general manager Jamie Adams told the inquiry on Thursday he was told by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions before taking the job that medical staff “would manage transfer of quarantine guests from (a hotel) to a medical facility” should they test positive.
“My initial understanding was that there would be no kind of positive or symptomatic case brought to those hotels in which we were going to be working,” he said.
Mr Adams said Katrina Currie, an executive director at the Department of Jobs Precincts and Regions had “made that clear” in their initial conversations.
“Secondly, if in the event that a guest did test positive, that it would be medical staff but only nurses and doctors that would then escort that person, from the facility to another health facility” he added.
The general manager said he found out this was not the case “very late in the piece”, around the time there was an outbreak of the virus at the Stamford Plaza Hotel.
Eight security guards across two different firms subcontracted by MSS Security at the Stamford Hotel tested positive to the virus around June.
Sam Krekelis, the business manager for events at MSS, said he found out “at the time one of our staff members contracted (the virus)”.
Mr Adams also said he was told before taking the job Victoria Police officers would be on site to deal with any issues.
“There was a very clear instruction in the event of a guest absconding or attempting to abscond from the facility or in the event of a guest becoming agitated or aggravated we were not to respond, Victoria Police would,” he said.
Officers were in fact not on site, unless there was an emergency call.
Mr Krikelis said the initial brief to MSS instructed guards would have guests arriving, who would check in, stay in their rooms for 14 days and then leave.
“ Throughout the process, that changed,” he said.
“We undertook other tasks such as escorting guests for smoke breaks, for fresh air walks.
“At a couple of the hotels, DJPR and DHHS initiated family rooms to assist with some additional, I guess, areas for families to come and just get out of their hotel rooms.
“Towards the end of our stay at the Stamford, we were asked if we could help deliver meals, breakfast, lunches and dinners. So it changed along the way and we were fluid with those changes, but it wasn’t what we I guess initially thought our tasks would be.”
Mr Krikelis said guards were also asked to search care packages that would come from guests families and friends to check for things like cigarettes, lighters and drugs