MSP demands Council suspend admissions to Dumbarton care home

Jackie Baillie MSP, Jonathan McColl, Crosslet House old and new and a recent photograph of residents, daycare clients and staff. 

By Bill Heaney

Admissions to Crosslet House care home in Dumbarton, which has had 15 virus-related deaths since March 24 should be suspended,  Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Loch Lomondside, said today.

The shock news emerged during a media conference at which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave an update  on the current #coronavirus situation in Scotland:

• 8,450 positive cases confirmed, an increase of 263 since yesterday
• 1,809 patients in hospital
• 12 further deaths, taking the total to 915

The Scottish Labour Party’s deputy leader, Ms Baillie, is furious about the situation in Dumbarton.

She has raised serious concerns over the handling of the outbreak at Crosslet House, a relatively new home which was built at a cost of £10 million.

That was against a barrage of local criticism that a larger home – similar to the old Townend Hospital, which was known in ‘Fifties as the Poor House, was being situated above the Timber Houses “at the back of beyond”.

The Democrat warned repeatedly that a larger home with a big number of residents might be more vulnerable to the spread of illness; that it would be an inconvenient and expensive place for families to reach to visit relatives,  and that the crossing from the bus stop on the busy A82 boulevard would present a danger for both the patients on organised trips (out of the home) and their elderly relatives.

The busy A82 off which runs Argyll Avenue, the main route to Crosslet House.

The Council did nothing about it and it took more than a year for them to put arrangements in place for a crossing at the foot of Argyll Avenue. It’s still not there.

The 70-bed Crosslet establishment is a new build which replaces a group of much smaller, highly regarded care homes ideally situated in the community from which staff and residents were transferred.

This was done to achieve economies of scale to save local government money at a time of austerity. And before the Governments were forced to spend £ billions to fight corona virus, a battle that is still ongoing.

The homes included Langcraigs in Townend Road, which was sold to a private company with a dubious track record for less than £1 million, despite the fact there had been a higher bid of £1.2 million from a company to build social housing.

Langcraigs was completely demolished and replaced with a new home, which was not what the planning committee were told would happen when the sale was approved.

The revelation has leaked out from the secrecy obsessed council after a whistleblower concerned about the number of deaths at the care home contacted Jackie Baillie.

Ms Baillie has today reiterated Scottish Labour’s call for the testing of staff and residents to be prioritised to stop the spread of Covid-19 at care homes.

She said every Crosslet House resident should be tested as a matter of urgency.

And after the Council itself and the Council’s SNP leader Jonathan McColl refused to answer any questions about the impact of coronavirus – or anything else for that matter – from The Dumbarton Democrat.

Later, however, the Council issued the following statement to BBC Scotland: “Our dedicated team of carers at Crosslet House is working round the clock to provide essential care and support to residents and their families during these unprecedented and hugely challenging weeks.

“Testing of staff and residents has already been undertaken in line with guidance and the care home is already closed to new admissions.”

The Council said its procedures are “thorough” and added: “Morale among our staff remains high and we are hugely grateful for the vital role they are playing in caring for and protecting residents most in need.”

A Care Inspectorate spokesman said: “We are aware of the tragic deaths of residents at this care home as a result of suspected cases of Covid-19.

“Our thoughts are with the loved ones of those affected as well as the staff and wider community of the home.

“We have been notified of the circumstances and we are in contact with the care service and the local health and social care partnership during this difficult time.”

ambulance bill

Ambulance crew on an emergency call in Dumbarton.

Dumbarton MSP and Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “It is devastating to hear that 15 people have died at Crosslet House, and my thoughts are with the families of residents affected at this time.

“I am concerned about the way in which this outbreak appears to have been handled. Given that no testing has taken place, it is alarming that senior staff have reportedly described Crosslet House as ‘Covid-19-free’.

“I also understand that only one of the residents had been taken to hospital.

“Families across Scotland are understandably worried about loved ones living in care homes.

“They are also angry that so few tests have been carried out, and that protective equipment is in too many cases still not reaching the front line.

“Now more than ever we must follow the World Health Organisation’s advice and ‘test, test, test’.

“Every single resident at Crosslet House must be tested immediately along with staff and there must be no new admissions by West Dunbartonshire Council while this outbreak is being controlled.”

First Minister Sturgeon and CMO Smith.

Meanwhile, First Minister Sturgeon says she will outline a “framework” towards the end of this week for ending the #coronavirus lockdown.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Gregor Smith, said there appeared to be a significant reduction in people going to see their GP with symptoms of illnesses which not related to coronavirus.

He said there is “strong evidence” that there are currently lower numbers of urgent referrals being made for suspected cancer.

“If it was urgent before #coronavirus [came on the scene], it remains urgent now,” he said, urging people to speak to their GP about it immediately.

GP Dr Punam Krishan said: “People are not seeking help for conditions that may potentially be avoidable, that may cause them to become really sick or in worse cases even die. People need to come forward and be seeking help.”

Dr Krisham suggests there are three reasons why people may not be coming forward:

  • People following social distancing rules are too worried to leave the house – which is why phone consultations are on offer she says.
  • There is a fear of catching coronavirus, but she warns ignoring symptoms of other diseases could lead you to a worse situation.
  • The idea people are a burden on the NHS. She adds: “There is no such burden to the healthcare services. This is what we’re here for, we need to see you.”

Chief Nursing Officer Professor Fiona McQueen discussed the importance of parents getting their children vaccinated – either by visiting a surgery or having a team come to their home.

And artist Damien Hirst has created two new artworks in response to coronavirus – one to raise money for charity and the other to raise spirits –  “The great thing about art is it is hopeful, it is optimistic.”

A further sixteen residents at Hill View in Clydebank were displaying symptoms of Covid-19 and one has tested positive.

Operators Advinia said the deaths all occurred in the home, which has had 127 residents, since the start of April.  Those with symptoms are being “barrier nursed” by staff.

And on April 6, we reported:  Scottish Labour is today raising serious concerns over the lack of Personal Protective Equipment and possible negligence by management at Castleview Care Home in Dumbarton, where at least 11 deaths have been recorded in the last 10 days.  In a letter to the Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour, Jackie Baillie, the Regional Secretary of GMB Scotland, Gary Smith, revealed the struggles faced by staff at the care home when it came to raising with the management concerns over the lack of access to PPE and the absence of support for staff.

Ten days ago, on Good Friday, The Democrat asked the Council and Council leader Jonathan McColl the following question: Dumbarton Care Home Crosslet House. We intended to ask West Dunbartonshire  Council and Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP administration, if they if they are content that they decided to close community care homes in the town and replace them with one large establishment at “the back of beyond” at Crosslet. Or to tell the public, who pay their community charges, what the current situation is there and at other council run homes and how they are coping. And, of course,  to answer similar questions to those which were asked in parliament. There was no response.


One comment

  1. The new care home is an excellent facility and it is run by excellent staff.

    That there is a run of deaths in Crosslet House, and in other care homes up and down the country, reinforces the lunacy of not introducing testing, tracking, tracing and containing the virus whilst stockpiling protection n kit. But that wasn’t against worldwide medical advice done.

    Rather Boris Johnson’s Government ‘s policy was to spread the virus to protect the economy through herd immunity knowing fine well that elderly would die.

    And so, having deliberately allowed the virus to spread it is unrealistic to expect anything else than belated catch up after the horse has bolted. More so when the Westminster government failed to secure sufficient stockpiles of PPE, rejected invitations to participate in the EU procurement scheme, failed to secure testing kit.

    Yes we may criticise the council and criticise the absent Cllr McColl but the initial problem lies with the Prime Minister at Westminster.

    Quite why the First Minister went along with the Boris Johnson four nation approach is a question that maybe needs to be asked. But let us not forget Westminster controls the purse string, Hollyrood only gets a grant, and Westminster can economically choke a devolved authority of funds.

    Austerity for anyone who doesn’t know it was and is Westminster Conservative policy. It was not a Hollyrood policy, and unless the First Minister has a magic stick she cannot reverse austerity. Only Westminster, or an independent zScotland can do that.

    And it austerity, and a failure to prepare that has hit us so hard. Scotland has fared relatively better than England in terms of numbers infected, numbers dead, and indeed Scotland is reporting more accurate numbers than in England where they do not report Coronavirus deaths outside hospitals.

    So yes, some criticism may be due against the council, even it’s absent leader who could at least have expressed some condolences to the families of the dead. But at the end of the day, the principal or preeminent cause of this crisis turning into a disaster is that of the Westminster government policies. That is the root.

    Freed from that, things in a Scotland could very probably been quite different. And now, having let the genie out of the bottle, and the virus spread, it looks like we are going to continue with this misery for some considerable time yet whilst other world countries start to ease up and try to get back to a more normal footing.

    Better together, a Union dividend, I’ll leave that for others to decide on that. But I know what I think. Bojo and the Clowns sold us short, murderously short, and we bought it.

    And so let us pray that enough PPE can be secured to go round as the hospitals go short. Let us hope we can secure the testing kit needed. And let us hope that people will continue to try and keep their social distance and that the now widely spread virus can be suppressed, so that at some time we can try to get back to a more normal footing.

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