MSP calls out ‘shocking complacency’ denial and spin at death home

MSP Jackie Baillie, Crosslet House, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and Cllr Jonathan McColl, the SNP council leader, who hasn’t been seen or heard of since the coronavirus lockdown began.

By Bill Heaney

Today in the Scottish Parliament, Jackie Baillie – MSP for Dumbarton – raised the covid-19 deaths and outbreak in Crosslet House care home with Jeane Freeman, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport.

The West Dunbartonshire Council-run care home, Crosslet House, has had 16 residents deaths since 24 March and five staff have tested positive of covid-19 with one staff member now in hospital.

This is despite the care home’s bosses claiming as late as yesterday that the home was covid-19 free and that the Council was following Government advice. As of today, Crosslet House has not had a single resident tested for covid-19.

Ms Baillie told parliament: “The 15 deaths at Crosslet house care home have now become 16, following the death of a resident yesterday. As late as yesterday, senior managers were claiming that the home is Covid-19 free.

“That is despite at least two local GPs diagnosing residents with Covid-19, five staff testing positive and one member of staff now in hospital.

In a shameful piece of spin that, frankly, would make most politicians blush, West Dunbartonshire Council claims that it is following guidelines and is giving the impression to families that it is testing residents.

“But it has not tested a single resident—not one. The council is not even being accountable to its local councillors, who are being refused information.

“Will the cabinet secretary instruct an urgent investigation and tell West Dunbartonshire Council that it must test its care home residents and not allow older people to be treated as second-class citizens?

Jeane Freema replied: “The situation that Ms Baillie has just outlined is utterly shameful and completely unacceptable. This afternoon, I will ask the relevant director of public health to immediately take steps to look at what is happening in that care home, to ensure that residents who are symptomatic are tested and to advise me on what additional steps should be taken with that particular care home, as we are now asking all directors of public health to do with every care home across Scotland.

In response to Jackie Baillie, Jeane Freeman called the situation at Crosslet House “utterly shameful and completely unacceptable”.

She promised to speak with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde’s Director of Public Health on Wednesday to ensure that tests are carried out on symptomatic residents and that measures are taken to protect both residents and staff.

Jackie Baillie said later: “I welcome the announcement today from Jeane Freeman as a first step in tackling the extremely distressing outbreak of covid-19 within Scotland’s care homes.

“The fact that so few residents and staff have been tested must end today. It is right that all symptomatic residents will be tested and that care home managers will be held accountable with a greater level of scrutiny.

“I raised the appalling situation at Crosslet House with the Cabinet Secretary who agreed that what has gone on there has been shameful. I will work with the Government to ensure that drastic steps are taken there so as to protect both residents and staff and to avoid further deaths.”

During her statement to parliament, Ms Freeman announced the Government’s latest plans to tackle the widespread outbreak of covid-9 within Scotland’s care homes.

These plans include:

  • NHS Directors of Public Health will take an enhanced clinical leadership for care homes. This means that NHS directors will report on their initial assessment of how each home is faring in terms of infection control, staffing, training, social distancing and testing and the actions they are taking to rectify any deficits they identify.
  • Creating a national rapid action group – comprising the key partners with operational responsibility in this area.
  • Preparing the Care Inspectorate for an enhanced role of assurance across the country, including greater powers to require reporting.
  • Testing for staff and residents is being expanded, including all symptomatic residents of care homes. 
  • Covid-19 patients discharged from hospital to a care home will be required to test negative for covid-19 twice before discharge.
  • All new admissions to care homes are to be tested and isolated for 14 days in addition to the clear social distancing measures the guidance sets out.

Jackie Baillie said: “The situation at Crosslet House is utterly appalling. Residents have died and staff have taken seriously ill due to what appears to be shocking complacency on the part of the Council.

“The fact that not a single test has been carried out on residents is completely shameful and Crosslet House chiefs claiming that the home was ‘covid-free’ is spin that would make most politicians blush.

“I welcome the commitment from the Cabinet Secretary to urgently look into this situation. My thanks and best wishes go to the hardworking staff in the home who are fighting to keep the residents safe, and my sympathies go to the families of those who passed away in such difficult circumstances.”

Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the basket case SNP administration on West Dunbartonshire Council, which has blundered into one controversy after another over the past two years has not been seen around since the crisis began.

Joyce White, the council’s Chief Executive, nor anyone in the £500,000 a year communications department will speak to The Democrat, whose editor they have banned and are boycotting.


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