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Australian State Health Official Sacked Following Poisoning Outbreak in Nursing Home

Following a fatal food poisoning outbreak in a nursing home in the Victorian state of Australia, its chief Health Officer has been sacked. //

Opposition parties in Victoria have slammed her handling of the poisoning outbreak in which four lives have been lost till now.

The state is situated in the southeastern corner of Australia and is densely populated.

Liberal Leader Ted Baillieu branded the ministers and her department's handling of the issue as an "extraordinary failure of public health administration."

Federal health inspectors have since inspected the Broughton Hall nursing home and hostel at Camberwell, in Melbourne's inner east, where the outbreak occurred.

Four residents, three men and a woman aged in their 70s and 80s, are believed to have died from salmonella-related gastroenteritis over the Easter period but the minister was not notified until Friday.

Salmonella is a type of bacteria that causes food poisoning and is commonly found in meat and animal waste, particularly poultry.

"It is one of the worst ever public health failures in Victoria's history and we have a minister who says I know nothing. It is unacceptable," Baillieu said.

Twenty residents at the 30-bed Commonwealth-funded home were affected by the illness, which was first detected on April 5. Two people are recovering in hospital.

Rosemary Lester, a doctor attached to Victoria's Department of Human Services (DHS), said she was confident the outbreak had been contained following decontamination of the nursing home's kitchen. Also food was being brought in for residents.

An official of the nursing home sought to take the blame on herself for failure to notify the authorities promptly. "We take full responsibility for not notifying the department, the department are not to blame for not knowing about the outbreak," she said.

"We did contact them on the Tuesday morning as soon as of fice hours opened and advised them but we didn't try the emergency number, it was our responsibility and we accept that," she said.

Liberal health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said it was Victoria's second major public health failure in recent weeks.

She was referring to the trial of Michael Neal, a father of five, charged with trying to deliberately spread HIV among the gay community by practising unprotected sex.

Officials have been accused of failing to move quickly enough to stop Neal in his tracks by detaining him early. The Australian federal Government's chief adviser on HIV, Michael Wooldridge, himself had called for the sacking of Robert Hall, for not using his powers to detain Neal, despite specific advice that he should do so.

An advisory panel had suggested to Hall in January last year that he should use his last-resort powers to lock up Neal, but he rejected the advice, allowing Neal to go on to attempt to infect his 16th victim.

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