Care home director fears protective equipment and testing arrangements ‘too little, too late’

The director of a group of care homes where 11 residents have died after contracting Covid-19 says she thinks the sector has been forgotten during a “horrendous” last three weeks.

Nicola Richards, who is director of three care homes in Sheffield with a total of around 200 residents, said that PPE and testing arrangements are finally being sorted but it is “too little, too late”.

And she said care homes have still not seen any of the financial support they have been promised.

Ms Richards (pictured), from Palms Row Healthcare, said two of the three homes she runs have had an outbreak, with the first case identified on March 20 and the first death on April 1. She said there are 51 confirmed cases among her residents, including two awaiting results.

Ms Richards added that she has had a staff absence rate of 40% and the first proper shipment of PPE equipment only arrived on Good Friday.

Ms Richards said: “It’s been too little too late for us with two homes hit.

“It’s been horrendous. It’s been a really, really, difficult time for us – staff, residents, families.

“It’s just been incredibly challenging. We’ve been in this for three-and-a half-weeks now.

“It’s been a lonely three-and-a-half weeks. If the public only knew what was going on.”

Ms Richards said: “I just don’t think we’ve had the support. We’ve not been prepared for this.

“There has been a lot of emphasis on the NHS, and rightly so. But, ultimately we’re an integral part of the healthcare system too.

“But we’ve been lacking PPE, lacking the testing kit. We should have had some support.”

Ms Richards said that 30 of her staff have tested positive and 45 are self-isolating.

She said: “Some staff have been absolutely terrified by this.

“They’ve been coming in to do hands-on care with residents and we should have had all the PPE to meet the needs of the residents we’re caring for.

“We’re losing staff on a daily basis through isolation and testing positive and it’s had a real impact on the workforce.”

She said: “Staff are terrified, anxious, worried, upset. They want to care for the residents.”

Asked about an estimate that the Government’s death toll figure is 10% underestimated due to the daily number only looking at hospitals, Ms Richards said: “I think it’ll be a lot higher. I think it’s significantly higher.”

She said a lack of financial support was causing daily problems.

And she said that money worries had been exacerbated by a new notification from the local authority of a funding increase of 4.9% that is effectively a cut due to the 6.2% minimum wage increase and inflationary costs.

Ms Richards said: “We’ve not had any staffing support, we’ve had no financial support.

“We’ve still not had any commitment on financial incentives.”

She said Care England has told her there should be a 15% budget uplift to cope with the crisis but this has not materialised.

“Were looking at a sector that’s already underfunded,” Ms Richards said.

“We shouldn’t be worrying about financials at this time, we need to be delivering the care.”

Ms Richards said: “It’s an incredibly emotional time for our staff and our families.

“It just feels like a real blow to us, it really feels like our services are not valued.”

She said: “We seem to be at the bottom of the pecking order here, it’s totally unfair.”

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