It’s difficult to run the activities of care homes daily, but now coronavirus pandemic has compounded the problems. Amid years of apparent neglect and other concerns, care staff grapple with COVID-19 outbreak in homes.
Regional Manager of Affinity Care Management UK, Philip Ladbury has told the Breaker that care homes have largely been overlooked in the coronavirus pandemic.
“For all the right reasons, the frontline nurses, doctors and all the care workers are the first ones to be mentioned in the national press. I understand and respect that. But care home staff have always been in the shadows”, he said.
Mr Ladbury’s comments come on the heels of the worrying spike in coronavirus related deaths in care homes.
According to figures from the National Office of Statistics, as of 17th April, there have been 3,096 deaths in care homes in England and Wales.
Earlier in March, deaths more than doubled in care homes. Meanwhile, government’s weekly figures only began to include care home deaths since 29th April.
Death figures could be higher than official figures. Because death certificates in homes, (following the outbreak) often read dementia or respiratory complications other than COVID-19. The Breakers’ investigation shows that this may be masking the real impact of coronavirus.
Also, the lack of testing in many care homes has resulted in under reporting of COVID-19 related deaths. The situation is more worrying because of the spike in death rates in care homes.
The government’s plan to test social care workers was problematic because most care workers do not have personal cars and still had to travel. This makes testing more difficult to access.
Drive-through method of testing is currently being used, but many care workers have still not been covered.
Fran Fitzgerald, a care home staff member in Bournemouth, said she doesn’t think about herself when she comes to work, although she has no symptoms. But she’s rather concerned about staying safe in order not to infect others in the home.
Underfunded and overworked
Another concern for care home managers is poor funding of the care sector. And the pandemic has not made life any better for it.
This is compounded by government’s policy to free up the NHS through discharge to the community settings. Care homes have had to deal with returning patients and increased number of new people who need care. The policy puts more burden on an over-stretched sector.
Mr Ladbury believes that despite yearly debates and government promises, careers still have to do with less financial support.
UK’s secretary of state for health, Matt Hancock’s letter, on March 6, to MPs and peers underscores the need for support for social care and the lack of improved funding over the years.
As Ladbury notes, “Care workers are not on the best of wages, but remain committed and dedicated.”
Face to face challenges
Despite the government’s plan to provide PPEs, some care homes rely on donations from residents for things like face masks. This puts care staff at the risk of contracting the virus.
Anita Collier is manger of a care home in Winchester and has spent over two decades in care. She said the mask she wore during her interview was given to her by a lady that contacted her on Facebook.
Ms Collier told the Breaker that when there was an outbreak in Winchester, the home was technically closed to all visitors. They have recently had three funerals, although she said they were not confirmed coronavirus cases.
“I’ve been manager for almost four years now and in care for about 20 years. I can honestly say that we’ve never come across an experience like we have over the last couple of months”, says Collier in an interview which the Breaker conducted with her:
Care homes need a “face lift”
The breaker has gathered that care homes hope that this pandemic will create a new image for their industry.
They also hope that the government will put their money where their mouth is in providing support for the care industry, as part of the health care system.
And these can be achieved, according to them, through comprehensive implementation of government’s policies for social care.