Care worker suspended for putting two dozen vulnerable people at risk of Covid-19

A care worker put nearly two dozen vulnerable people at risk by carrying out home visits while she was suspected to have Covid-19, a tribunal has heard.

Samantha Gould, who previously worked for 1st Grade Care in Cardiff, attended a number of calls last June despite being told by her GP to self-isolate and arrange a coronavirus test after feeling unwell.

Ms Gould claimed she had been given “a verbal negative Covid test result” before making the visits and said she “kept her distance during calls and had an apron, gloves and mask”.

Social Work Wales imposed an interim 18-month suspension last August over concerns Ms Gould had “showed a reckless disregard for the health and wellbeing of those in her care”.

Ms Gould appealed against her interim suspension last month, telling the Care Standards Tribunal that the ban had been “highly stressful” for her.

But, in a ruling published this week, tribunal judge Faridah Eden dismissed Ms Gould’s appeal against her 18-month interim suspension.

The judge said the allegations against Ms Gould, who was “working with highly vulnerable people who would be at great risk were they to become infected with Covid-19”, were “extremely serious”.

She added that there was “strong evidence that (Ms Gould) put the public at risk” and “knowingly broke rules which were intended to protect the vulnerable people she was working with”.

Ms Gould is also alleged to have falsely attempted to claim payment for work carried out by an unauthorised member of staff and to have misled her new employer, Care Cymru, about the investigation into her conduct.

When a Social Care Wales officer called Care Cymru in September 2020, Ms Gould answered the phone and said she did not know she was suspended but claimed she had been “open” with her new employer about the investigation.

However, just days later, a member of staff at Care Cymru told the regulator that they were “unaware of the investigation” – prompting Social Care Wales to consider an investigation into whether she was “truthful and honest” with the firm.

At a hearing in February, Ms Gould claimed she “received the telephone call giving the negative result” in June, in the morning before going out for her first call of the day.

She denied “concealing” that she had worked when she had been told to self-isolate and said she felt she was being “set up”.

Ms Gould also said she did not tell Care Cymru about the investigation because she “did not think it would go this far”, but admitted she was “in the wrong” for telling Social Work Wales she had informed her new employer about it.

A senior official at Social Care Wales told the tribunal that they did not accept Ms Gould’s claim she was verbally told she recorded a negative test because her colleagues at 1st Grade Care said that “she did not tell them”.

Graham Miles, representing the regulator, told the tribunal that Ms Gould’s behaviour put “six staff members and 22 vulnerable people” at risk.

In her ruling, Judge Eden said she was concerned that Ms Gould “has not acknowledged that she may have put anyone at risk”, which she said “adds to the weight of the allegations”.

The judge found that there was also “strong evidence to support the allegation that (Ms Gould) has acted dishonestly”.

Ms Gould had told the tribunal that the interim suspension was “having an impact on her mental health”.

But Judge Eden ruled: “We understand that the ongoing investigation has been highly stressful for the appellant.

“However, we must also take into account the vulnerability of the service users which the appellant would be supporting and the seriousness of the allegations.

“Balanced against these considerations, we consider it proportionate for the appellant to be suspended from working in registered positions.”

It is expected that a full fitness to practise case against Ms Gould will be heard at a later date.

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