By Tatiana Zaituni
Care homes are on course to become the epicenter of half of the deaths caused directly or indirectly by the coronavirus, according to the latest data.
Government failure to protect the UK’s care home residents and workers has been highlighted by recent mortality rates in Yorkshire.
Analysis carried out by the Official National Statistics shows that by 8th May, care homes across the county recorded 1,351 Covid-19 related deaths.
Testimonies from across West Yorkshire reveal a pattern of neglect and how residents and their carers have felt abandoned during the pandemic.
The very places dedicated to keeping elderly and often highly vulnerable people safe in their later years have become contagion hot-spots. Care homes have become places where the transmission of infection has skyrocketed because of how the sector operates.
The duty of care has gone catastrophically wrong at the highest level. This betrayal of people in care and their carers has its roots in a social system that is neglected as seen by the ongoing shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the failure to roll out tests for staffs, no to mention the under-reporting of mortalities since the beginning of the pandemic.
Back in April, the British government advised that care homes were “very unlikely” to experience infections. However, care homes are on track to become the secondary epicenter for the Covid-19 outbreak.
When politicians and the national media encourage people to support and clap for ‘our key workers’, the focus is on the role of National Health Service staff. No one disputes that NHS workers need and deserve our support, nor the important role of many others during this health crisis.
However, Government responses have neglected care homes and left their residents and staff fatally exposed and at risk.
One anonymous healthcare worker in Bradford identified how habitual discharge of un-tested patients from hospitals has contributed to the outbreak.
Labour Leader Keir Stammer challenged Boris Johnson in the House of Commons on 14th May.
He quoted a cardiologist, who said: “We discharged known, suspected and unknown cases into care homes which were unprepared with no formal warning that patients were infected, no testing available and no PPE to prevent transmission.”
”We actively seeded this into the very population that was most vulnerable.”
A key frontline worker in a Leeds care home (who wishes to remain anonymous) claims it was only “toward the end of May, the [Government] started putting the same measure as in hospital to carry out the test of Covid-19.”
She claims the government only moved to introduce “compulsory testing” because data from care homes showed deaths were “increasing drastically.”
“It was when deaths became rampant and the number of deaths started to surge, that is when a system was put in place for every care home to get testing”
This experience has left front-line care home staff feeling traumatised and neglected by the government in Westminster. It’s not hard to see how questions arise about competency and feeling abandoned.
In a care home in Kirklees, testing of residents was done correctly but the staff themselves were not tested.
When the government promised Covid-19 testing for all, this was not fulfilled until the end of May.
What’s more, front-line care home staff have expressed their disappointment about not getting the same recognition as their NHS counterparts.
Many feel their sacrifices have gone unnoticed.
The pandemic has revealed the inequalities and disparities faced by care home residents and staff within the Health and Social care sector. It has uncovered a deep-rooted and deeper pattern of neglect.
With more than 12,000 deaths in care homes due to COVID-19, the British public and grieving families deserve far, far better.
The government must prioritise residents and health care workers in care homes.