Victorian health authorities have revoked the registration of Hambleton House after more than half of its residents contracted COVID-19.

Jai Abeywickrema, who runs Hambleton House with his wife Shani, reported the first case of COVID-19 on 13 August. Testing in the following days revealed five residents and one staff member had contracted the virus.

Neighbours raised the alarm after they saw residents out and about in the local area, despite it being known there were COVID-19 cases at the home, according to reports in The Age.

Residents with complex needs

Hambleton House is a supported residential service. It had 28 residents of a range of ages, and catered to the needs of older people, people with an intellectual or psychiatric disability, and people with complex behaviours.

The home occupies a gracious Victorian-era building in an affluent suburb of Melbourne, and offers shared rooms for its residents.

But when authorities visited the home for testing, they raised concerns about a lack of client information and support plans for residents.

Police, security and paramedics were sent to the home soon after, and by 17 August, 15 residents had tested positive for COVID-19.

This week, a spokesperson has confirmed that the Victorian department of Health’s Supported Residential Services regulator has revoked Hambleton House’s registration and the home has been placed into administration. 

Last month, premier Daniel Andrews said the needs of the residents at Hambleton House were “very, very complex” and he raised concerns about their behaviour impacting on public health.

The spokesperson said the department is doing “everything we can to meet those need”.

EY has been appointed administrator and will advise on its future. The home remains close for now at least.

Residents had no other family

Mr Abeywickrema told The Age some of the residents had no family other than he and his wife and the other residents.

We can only imagine how stressful it must have been for the residents to be forced to move out of their home in such dramatic circumstances. The authorities who came into the home were wearing intimidating hazmat suits, and the decision to move was made swiftly. There would have been little to no opportunity for discussion or flexibility.

Thankfully, most residents have moved into a supported residential facility in nearby St Kilda with 24-hour security and medical and mental health support. 

“Trusted” service provider Wintringham, which has a “good track record” of providing services in the homelessness and disability sectors, is supporting the tenants while they are in temporary accommodation.

“Work is underway to find each resident a new permanent home,” the spokesperson said.

For now, the residents must adapt to their new temporary accommodation, with unfamiliar people, routines and surroundings in the knowledge they may never be able to return to their former home.

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