A member of Stormont’s Health Committee has said that the failure to adequately prepare care homes in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic was a critical error and lessons must be learned.
South Down MLA Colin McGrath (SDLP) said that no care home resident or staff member should ever feel like they were forgotten about or abandoned and has called for an early inquiry into support for care homes.
The SDLP MLA said: “The experience of care home residents, staff and managers throughout the Covid-19 crisis has been difficult to hear. Their pleas for assistance, support and PPE should have been heard and acted upon earlier.
“The character and professionalism of those who have put themselves on the front line to protect elderly and vulnerable people is unimpeachable.
“It is deeply uncomfortable, therefore, to hear the Department of Health attempt to undermine their experience of support in the early days of this crisis.
“Everyone is doing their best to manage an incredibly difficult situation but we can only improve the response if we listen to the sincere accounts of those who feel left behind.
“No care home resident or member of staff should feel like they were forgotten. I have heard from staff who were not provided with adequate protective equipment, people in distress who are trying to protect elderly and vulnerable people and who aren’t receiving a wage that reflects their value.
“It is clear to me from the experiences of front line staff that there must be an early inquiry into the treatment of care homes, their staff and residents. We myst be assured that everything was done to protect them and that lessons will be learned so that no one feels forgotten again.”
Crotlieve Councillor Karen McKevitt added: “The additional resource by way of funding is of course welcome, but there are serious issues about the level of support that has been made available to care homes to date.
“We have heard from staff about delays in receiving protective equipment to the extent that they felt forgotten about. The SDLP is calling for an early inquiry into the support that was made available to our care homes.
“We knew that this would be a front line of this crisis, no one should feel abandoned.”
DUP MLA Jim Wells also said: “The increased funding is very welcome but care homes in South Down need much more.
“There is an urgent need for every resident and member of staff in every home be be tested for the virus.
“A month ago the Minister of Health promised that 500 staff would be recruited to carry out testing in care homes but they have yet to start work.
“Hospitals have been very successful in dealing with the virus and there is now a need to transfer staff to the care home sector where the next stage of the battle is being fought.”