childcare centre coronavirus
(Image: AAP/Dean Lewis)

Nearly a week after a coronavirus case was detected at Clever Kids Childcare in Ashburton in Melbourne’s south east, and several days after it was declared a cluster, Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) hadn’t provided correct information to families and close contacts. The cluster has since grown to more than 21.

A parent with children at Clever Kids Childcare spoke to Crikey’s Amber Schultz.

We have two children at the centre. On Thursday morning, we had a call from the manager saying there was a positive coronavirus case. We then got a follow-up email.

On Saturday the cluster of five cases was announced by the DHHS. The centre forwarded everyone an email around midnight with a copy of the letter from DHHS saying families should get tested, so by Sunday a lot of families had — us included.

The email said, “The department will be in close contact with you to help you navigate this process,” but it hasn’t been. The only regular communications have been from the centre manager and nothing at all from DHHS.

People don’t know what’s happening.

The SMS from the DHHS to my partner came on Tuesday night around 9. It was just a link to a page on Whispir [a messaging platform contracted by the DHHS].

It stated our youngest was in close contact with someone and he needed to isolate until today, which contradicts advice from the centre manager which said he has to isolate until the 29th.

The SMS was only for one of our boys. We only got information about the other one on Thursday. No on has addressed the incorrect quarantine dates.

My partner had a call from the DHHS, because in a form she commented the date was wrong. The person on the phone had no idea what had happened.

It seems like they’re making the same mistakes as the hotel quarantine.

We’ve since been told the youngest should still be in quarantine.

There’s contradicting information about what [those in close contact] need to do, there’s contradicting advice about going out for exercise. We’re taking advice from the website, but the DHHS fact sheet says different things.

We called the DHHS. It said just look at the website but it’s hard to understand, even though we’re both university-educated.

The issue is that the contact tracing needs to happen quickly; it’s not much use if it’s a week out of date.

I have three big questions. Is the delay in contact tracing and testing widespread? Why was the cluster taken off the daily reporting? And why are we getting daily updates only from the centre manager?

I’m sure there are lots of hard-working people [at the DHHS] but if the technical systems don’t support those people it’s not much use.

The staff have been great, but our other concern is around people pulling out of childcare and whether that will impact the centre’s viability.

The DHHS did not respond to Crikey‘s questions.

Peter Fray

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