Suffolk’s LibDem, Green and Independent group have been regularly quizzing those in charge of the County’s Social Care and Public Health about the state of Suffolk care homes. We have been increasingly concerned about the high proportion of Suffolk Care homes with Covid outbreaks (much higher than in Norfolk or Cambridgeshire).
I first raised the issue of peripatetic care staff back in mid-April. Does county keep records of carers and other staff moving between different care locations? My concern was that carers and support staff might unwittingly spread infection between these locations. If you only test people with symptoms (and then only those in hospital), we were clearly likely to miss out on routes of transmission.
The answer? No records were kept: that infection control is managed best through proper use of PPE . It was therefore more effective to monitor use of PPE rather than monitor staff movements, I was told.
But of course the advice to care homes was to rely on handwashing and professionalism in most situations. Minimal PPE was required, unless Covid-19 had been diagnosed. And tests only happened in hospital. So what sort of answer was that?
Again – as with mask usage – it seems that there has been a desire at all levels to confuse the issue of infection and transmission – and to assert that handwashing and professionalism is enough of a defence against coronavirus, no matter where peripatetic staff may travel in the course of a day.
Now I do not question for one moment the professionalism. I absolutely believe in the handwashing. But there has been an abnormally high level of outbreak in Suffolk care homes. Clearly we needed more.
Today my group has taken our outrage to the press:
“Failing to test patients being discharged from hospital, and then placing these patients into care homes, is irresponsible beyond belief. We are very concerned that this occurred in Suffolk, and that this seems to account for the much higher proportion of Suffolk care homes with outbreaks compared to Norfolk and Cambridge,.”
“Even if this was allowed by national policy, the CCGs did not themselves consider the risks to our care home residents. Their decision to block-book beds in care homes to facilitate the discharge of patients from hospital is equally to blame.
“Care homes have been the hidden crisis of this pandemic. It is shocking that elderly care home residents, who are in the high-risk category and should have been fiercely protected by the authorities, have instead been exposed to the virus.
The risks to care homes were clear from countries like Italy, and yet this Government failed to learn from their experiences and instead put care homes directly into danger by allowing hospitals to discharge potentially infectious patients.”
In Suffolk we didn’t do nearly enough to stop this.