Coronavirus in Wales: ‘No clear picture’ on care home worker deaths

BBC News

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Plaid Cymru has called for the full impact of coronavirus on care homes to be disclosed after a minister said he was unable to give a figure for how many employees have died.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said he could not provide a “full picture”.

Plaid Cymru’s Delyth Jewell said detail is needed to help safeguard homes from a second peak.

The Welsh Government said it is working to gather the “most accurate information”.

Mario Kreft of industry body Care Forum Wales said that the “heroic efforts of care providers and their staff” had limited the number of employee deaths.

In a letter to Plaid Cymru, Mr Gething said there had been “11 in-service Covid-19 deaths” as of 1 June.

“This is only representative of direct health board employees, as we are not in a position to provide a full picture of nursing/residential home employees,” he said.

“We have also been informed of one death of a commissioned health care worker,” he added.

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The majority of care homes in Wales are run by private providers, with most staff directly employed by the providers or contracted through an agency.

Public Health Wales record the number of care home deaths in Wales, but there is no breakdown for care home staff.

Plaid Cymru’s Delyth Jewell, MS for South Wales East, said the 11 recorded deaths were “deeply tragic”.

But she added that the Welsh Government “should know these figures. They should know many care home staff have fallen to this virus. They should be able to tell us the true impact that Covid-19 has had on our care homes.

“Without knowing the true impact the virus has had on our care homes and without understanding the seriousness of the situation, how does the Welsh Government expect to draw up a strategy to protect our care homes from a second peak?”

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Mark Turner, Unison Wales lead officer on social care, said it was “concerned that we still don’t have a clear picture on care workers who have died as a result of Covid-19”.

“The Covid pandemic has exposed how the care sector suffers inferior investment and prestige compared to the NHS. This is another sorry example,” he said.

“Care services in Wales are fragmented amongst many employers, mainly in the private sector, and this crisis has shown it’s much easier to manage and record instances of the virus in single employer organisation like the NHS.”

Mario Kreft added: “Providers have spent an absolute fortune buying their own PPE for staff, so it’s not luck that there has been so few staff fatalities.

“The care homes have been forced to paddle their own canoe when all the resources were being thrown at the NHS and social care was right at the back of the queue, with residents and staff being treated like collateral damage.

“Another saving grace was that in many cases care homes did not follow official advice and refused to admit hospital patients, which has been proven the right thing to do.”

What statistics are available?

The Office for National Statistics provides figures Covid-19 figures per occupation, including a breakdown for social care workers, but on an England and Wales basis.

A total of 131 deaths involving Covid-19 among social care workers were registered up to, and including, 20 April.

The Welsh Government has asked the agency to consider the feasibility of producing estimates of deaths for health and social care workers separately for Wales.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We recognise the tremendous effort and sacrifices our frontline staff are making in dealing with coronavirus, and are investing extra resources to protect them as they carry out their duties.

“We’re working with partners to ensure we have the most accurate information on how health and social care workers have been affected by coronavirus.”

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