Scottish Health Secretary brands alleged lack of testing at care home ‘shameful’

An alleged failure to test residents in a care home has been described as “shameful and unacceptable” by the Health Secretary.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Labour deputy leader and Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie asked Jeane Freeman to intervene in the case of Crosslet Nursing Home in her constituency.

On Monday, it was revealed admissions to the home have been ceased by West Dunbartonshire Council after it was discovered 15 residents were found to have died in the past month – a figure Ms Baillie said had risen to 16 on Monday.

Visibly emotional, Ms Baillie accused the local authority of “giving the impression to families that they are testing residents”.

She added: “But they haven’t tested a single resident, not one, they’re not even being accountable to their local councillors, who are being refused information.

“Will the Cabinet Secretary instruct an urgent investigation and tell West Dunbartonshire Council that they must test their care home residents and not allow older people to be treated as second-class citizens?”

Ms Baillie added two GPs diagnosed residents and staff with Covid-19.

In response, the Health Secretary said: “What Ms Baillie has just outlined is utterly shameful and completely unacceptable.

“What I will do is this afternoon ask the relevant director of public health to immediately take steps to look at what’s happening in that care home to make sure residents are tested who are symptomatic and to advise me on what additional steps they think should be taken now with that particular care home.”

A spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council said: “We can completely reject Ms Baillie’s allegation that care home managers have advised family members that our home is Covid-free.

“In addition, as MSPs will be aware, decisions on testing are taken by and based on the judgment of health professionals – not care home staff, or even councils.

“We have been in regular contact with public health clinicians throughout April and continue to adhere to their advice in relation to our care homes.”

She added: “Our procedures are thorough and aim to safeguard and support residents and our employees as best as possible during this exceptionally challenging time, including the observation of social distancing, fully equipping staff with PPE and providing staff testing.”

Ms Freeman also said that, had guidance from the Scottish Government been followed sooner, private care homes would not have the rates of infection they currently are.

She said: “All of that in place and active, there should not have seen the level of transmission that we have seen in care homes.

“So now we have to increase our level of clinical oversight, of Care Inspectorate inspections of those areas as well as ensuring through the direct delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other measures that we are offering the maximum support to care homes that we can baring in mind they remain private enterprises for the most part so we need to agree that level of support with them.”

In response to a question from Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, the Health Secretary said 1,636 emails have been sent to a dedicated address to report concerns over PPE since it was established on April 1 – an average of 77 a day.

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