FM Nicola Sturgeon, Tory leader Jackson Carlaw, Crosslet House care home – no second class citizens – and a care worker on anti-virus duty.
By Bill Heaney
“It is clear this morning that care homes think that they are being treated as second-class citizens.
“The Scottish Government made some good announcements yesterday, but care homes have been an obvious risk since the start of the crisis weeks ago. One care home manager said: “We are getting warm words from government but what we need is concrete action. Surely they are right”.
Nicola Sturgeon upbraided him: “They are right, which is why concrete action is being taken and will continue to be taken.
“First, I want to be very clear that there are no second-class citizens in the fight against the virus.
“Every life matters, regardless of the person’s age, background, where they live—in their own home or in a care home—or whether they are in hospital. That is why the advice is so clearly focused on saving lives.
“Since the start of the crisis, there has been clear guidance in place for care home providers about infection prevention and control, and public health directors in each of our health board areas, local health protection teams and the Care Inspectorate are working to ensure that that guidance is being implemented and followed.
“The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport [Jeane Freeman] and I are closely monitoring that situation, and we will continue to support care homes through the provision of the personal protective equipment that staff need to protect themselves.”
She added: “We can continue to use testing effectively and strategically while taking care not to allow it to give false assurance, because the most important things are around infection prevention and control. That remains and will remain throughout the crisis an area of intense focus for all of us.”
Mr Carlaw persisted: “I understand that testing will now be given to every resident who displays symptoms in care homes. Frankly, it might have been a mistake to have limited it to just three tests per home. We know that there are still issues with the scale of testing.
“A few weeks ago, the First Minister announced to Parliament that, by this point—mid to late April—we would be building up to 3,500 tests a day by the end of the month. How many tests does the First Minister expect to happen in care homes?
“Can she confirm whether every new resident who enters a care home—a potential unseen carrier of the virus—will now be tested before they are placed in the care home, which may have had no experience of the virus before?”
The First Minister replied: “On our testing capacity, we are on track to reach the 3,500 tests per day by the end of this month, and we intend to go beyond that as we go into May.
“It will continue to be important to build up that capacity, not least because of the role that testing will play in any exit strategy from the lockdown measures that there are right now.
“On what we said yesterday about testing all symptomatic residents in care homes, let me stress again that that does not change the clinical management of residents or outbreaks of infections in homes.
“As my advisers tell me, whether one resident, five residents or all residents have been tested, once it has been established that the virus is in a care home, it is infection prevention and control measures that are important.
“What we announced yesterday was rightly about building the confidence and assurance of relatives who are worried and want more certainty about the conditions of their relatives in care homes, and building that public assurance. That is the right thing to do at this stage as we build up capacity.”
She added: “In the case of new residents going into care homes, it is important that testing is used appropriately but that we do not run the risk of its giving false assurance. I remind Jackson Carlaw that testing is reliable only when a person is showing symptoms.
“If somebody is tested before they are showing symptoms and tests negative, that does not tell us for sure that they are not in the incubation period and will not develop the symptoms of the virus in the days ahead.
“Therefore those who are in charge of people’s care and their admission to care homes need to carry out proper risk assessments. The experience of anyone who goes into such homes should be that the guidance that has been given to providers is followed fully. Unfortunately, as is the case for the rest of the population, the isolation measures that we are asking residents in care homes to follow—such as not to gather communally and to eat on their own—are tough.
“However, those measures are also very important—the most important things that care home providers have to do. As I have said, health protection teams and the Care Inspectorate will be working hard to ensure that those rules and the guidance will be followed and implemented fully.”