A lack of protective equipment, frustration among staff and the feeling of being a “forgotten sector” in the fight against coronavirus are some of the fears in care homes.
Frontline staff who are looking after our elderly residents in care homes and in the community across the district during this time of crisis are facing the physical and mental toll of Covid-19.
In a special report, The Hunts Post has learned:
* Care home staff feel they are the “forgotten sector”;
* Care and dedication is “amazing” but majority are paid minimum wage;
* Masks are only for emergencies;
* Staff working with at risk residents then going home to families.
This comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted last week (April 17) that more people are dying in care homes than has been officially recorded.
The Government promised that all residents and carers who needed a coronavirus test in England would be able to access one and a ‘four-point’ social care plan would be put in place to control the spread of infection.
In Huntingdonshire, care home managers and staff have been trying to reassure relatives that they are doing their utmost to keep residents safe.
But a lack of PPE and minimum wage earnings are leaving care workers feeling as though they have been “forgotten”, a social worker told The Hunts Post.
Liz Harper, who has been in social care in the district for 25 years, is seeing first-hand what is happening in our care homes.
She said: “Staff are so frustrated, they feel like they are forgotten about.
“I was really struck by GPs coming in to homes covered in protective gear – yet care home staff hardly have anything.
“Until anyone shows symptoms they might not be able to even have a mask because they are just for an emergency.
“Their care, dedication and compassion for our elderly relatives is amazing yet the majority just do it for minimum wage.
“The most dangerous thing is that these workers are possibly going home to people at risk or a partner who works in a hospital and then going back into work the next day.”
It was revealed this week that more than 2,000 care homes reported cases of the virus in the UK.
The Government’s policy insists that there is now capacity available for “every social care worker who needs a test to have one, just as there is for NHS staff and their families.”
But it could be too little, too late.
Ms Harper claimed: “There are lots of people in the care sector that haven’t even been counted until this week. It’s distressing to say the least.”
Healthcare inspectors at the CQC (Care Quality Commission) are urging care workers to come to them for advice.
Chief inspector of adult social care, Kate Terroni, said: “We know from what providers of care have told us that Covid-19 is having a devastating impact both on the people they care for, and on adult social care staff.
“I want to say to all providers that my team are here to have a conversation with you to talk through any tough decisions you need to take and to offer advice where appropriate.”
Elsewhere in the district, care homes are using social media to keep residents connected with loved ones and make new friends.
At Nelson Lodge, in Eaton Socon, dozens of letters from pen pals have been sent to the home including letters, poems and drawings from children.
Volunteers have also been helping produce facemasks for staff at Excelcare Holdings - who run Hunters Down Care Home in Huntingdon.
Between them, more than 50 masks have been made and shared among 10 contingency boxes for Cambridgeshire homes.
Black Swan Care Group who run The Gables, in Chatteris, along with several other homes in the county, also said they have procured a “large number of Covid-19 test kits from Australia”.
A statement on their website reads: “We are taking the temperatures of staff before they start work and residents temperatures twice a day.
“We have also procured a large number of Covid-19 test kits from Australia to better support our response and support our homes. These are due to be delivered imminently.
“Every person matters and will be treated equally, compassionately and with the utmost respect and dignity.”