Managers at privately run care homes seek assurance about supply of PPE

MANAGERS at privately-run care homes say staff are desperate to be tested for the coronavirus to give them confidence to look after residents.

And they want assurances about the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Official daily death counts of Covid-19 patients don’t include people in care homes, but outbreaks of the virus in care homes in Scotland and England have exacted a grim toll.

A spokeswoman for a care home in Swansea said the owner had ordered a stash of PPE early on. But asked where they would get the next delivery from, she replied: “I have no idea.

“I don’t know who is going to help us. The home owner is doing his best to get some.

“We also recruited extra staff early on so we would be able to cope with staff falling by the wayside.”

She claimed that doctors and other outside services “have kept a wide berth from us”.

“It feels like an island here,” she said.

The spokeswoman said staff who felt unwell or showed symptoms of the virus were self-isolating for the required period.

Asked if testing of staff was being carried out, she said: “Absolutely not.”

She added: “It’s a long way from where I want it to be – it does surprise me.

The home, Hillside Care Home, Uplands, looks after 58 residents and has more than 80 staff.

The spokeswoman said a plan was in place if a resident, or residents, showed symptoms of the virus.

“We’ve had few coughs and splutters, but there is no Covid-19 in the building,” she said.

“The staff are doing a very, very good job and it’s not easy. However, it will be a lot easier when we get what we need to actually deliver care.”

Like all care homes, relatives are unable to visit at present.

“We are keeping residents happy, in the main,” she said.

In Neath Port Talbot, a spokeswoman for Baglan Lodge care home said it was getting “bits and bobs” in terms of PPE.

She said: “I guess it’s the same for everybody.”

She said staff testing was not happening.

“It is something we have asked for,” she said.

“We are just muddling through at the moment.”

The home looks after 30 residents and has around 40 full and part-time staff.

The spokeswoman said she wasn’t willing to allow any new resident unless they had been tested for the virus.

She said it was very hard for relatives not to be able to see their loved ones in the flesh.

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Public donations of toiletries and magazines, she said, would really help.

“We’ve been given flowers and compost for the patio, which is nice for those residents who can go out,” she said.

A spokeswoman for a home in Llanelli said she had ordered a large supply of PPE when the virus began sweeping through Italy and then Spain.

She said: “I saw it and I thought, ‘Oh my God,’. Luckily I ordered early.

“It took three weeks to get delivered.

“The girls here are laughing – my car is like an Aladdin’s cave.”

The spokeswoman, who didn’t want the home identified, said she was getting good support from Hywel Dda University Health Board, which funds the care of some of the residents.

“They ring every day and ask if any of the residents and staff are ill,” she explained.

“Today, they said if one of the registered nurses was ill that they would arrange testing.”

But she said the situation was less clear for care workers at the home.

“All the care workers want to be tested – that is what everyone is screaming for,” she said.

“We are on the frontline. We don’t want to see patients who we have looked after for so long do down with it.”

The spokeswoman said she was also getting support from Care Inspectorate Wales and Carmarthenshire Council who, she said, had “upped their game”.

She said she tested staff members’ temperature every day when they came to work.

When staff took off their uniform off at the end of the shift, they used antibacterial spray and then went back to their homes.

The spokeswoman added: “I have to ask them when they arrive how they are feeling, and if their family is healthy.

“When you are in a care home, you want to be safe.”

She said patients were generally being kept in their rooms, but could also sit in the lounge if they were at least two metres apart.

The home has a conservatory, and relatives can drop by and wave at their loved ones through the window.

“It’s as normal as we can be, but the residents are not moving around like they were,” said the spokeswoman.

“You’ve got the social isolation, and some of them are really worried about their families.

“The staff spend more time with them – if they see one of them is feeling lonely, they will sit and talk to them.

“They (staff) have been absolutely brilliant – nobody has been off sick. They are very caring and kind.”

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