Brendan Luxton: A Queensland man committed suicide the day after exiting COVID-19 hotel quarantine

A Queensland man who committed suicide was thwarted by an “unsophisticated” and “overburdened” hotel quarantine program while suffering a severe mental health episode, a report has revealed.

And there have been suggestions Queensland Health has taken to cover up the inadequacy of Brendan Luxton’s health crisis response.

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Luxton died at a home in Brisbane the day after exiting hotel quarantine after arriving from New Zealand in July 2020, a time during the COVID-19 pandemic when overseas arrivals were required to isolate themselves from the community.

His family requested that he be released from the two-week quarantine as his mental health had deteriorated by the time he left New Zealand.

The Queensland Health exemption application was not processed in a timely manner and Luxton spent the full 14 days in the hotel room.

“His family had been persistent in communicating the urgency of the application and Brendan Luxton’s sharp deterioration in his mental health during the quarantine period,” Coroner Christine Clements said in a report not yet released but viewed by 7NEWS.

Brendan Luxton from Queensland died in 2020. Recognition: 7NEWS

“Their efforts went unheard and did not reach the purview of the sole decision-maker, the Chief Health Officer (Jeannette Young).”

Several checks were carried out while Luxton was in quarantine.

However, those who performed the checks, including police officers, paramedics and an army officer, did not have the medical training to properly assess Luxton’s mental health, Clements noted.

An army officer who made a “check-in call” in Luxton said there were “insufficient staff” to make the required number of calls and she had “no qualifications to address the medical needs” of quarantine residents judge.

Luxton’s family has struggled for answers since his death. Recognition: 7NEWS

She also told the coroner that she “felt pressure” from a Queensland Health worker “to respond to the coroner’s request for information with the suggested response ‘I don’t remember.'”

When police visited Luxton on the 12th day of quarantine, officers reported he was “fine” although he later told his sister he was “terrified of the presence of uniformed, armed police officers,” according to the report.

In the hours leading up to his release, he called Triple-0 while suffering from acute anxiety, but told paramedics he didn’t want to go to the hospital.

Clements said his search for emergency assistance was a “potential red flag warning.”

“Catastrophic Effects”

“The system in place at the time was not sophisticated and would not trigger a check if a person was repeatedly unavailable or sought emergency assistance,” she said.

“The system at that time was certainly overloaded.

“But it also relied on some staff co-opted into the HDES (Health Directions Inquiry Service) who had minimal training but had to make ‘clinical’ decisions and assess the risk of people in quarantine.”

Luxton’s family have argued that the quarantine has had a “disastrous effect” on his mental health.

Minister’s reply

Health Secretary Yvette D’Ath said it was “extremely regrettable” that Luxton’s exemption request had not been processed in a timely manner.

She said since his death the system had changed, giving more people besides the CHO the power to grant exemptions.

“During the COVID and hotel quarantine, the system has been under incredible pressure and our healthcare workers have worked really hard to provide the best possible care,” said D’Ath.

“But there are lessons to be learned.”

She also said it was a “serious problem” that the army officer was allegedly pressured into withholding evidence from the Coroners Court.

“This is a serious issue… If that happened, there would be consequences,” D’Ath said.

If you need help during a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For more information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or speak to your GP, your local health professional or someone you trust.

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James Brien

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