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Care home residents 'may have lost lives due to slow testing', says Sinn Fein's Pat Sheehan


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Mr Sheehan also said he does not believe the latest support for care homes goes far enough to properly protect residents (PA)

Mr Sheehan also said he does not believe the latest support for care homes goes far enough to properly protect residents (PA)

Mr Sheehan also said he does not believe the latest support for care homes goes far enough to properly protect residents (PA)

Health officials were too slow to protect thousands of care homes residents from the deadly threat of Covid-19, it has been claimed.

Stormont health committee member Pat Sheehan has said lives may have been lost due to a delay in widespread testing of care home residents and the people working there.

He also described as "scandalous" claims that care homes have been forced by some health trusts to accept residents without knowing whether they have Covid-19.

"The way the whole situation has been handled up to now has been crazy," said the Sinn Fein MLA. "We have known from what has happened in other countries that care homes were going to be hit hard yet all we have seen are piecemeal measures introduced over the last week or two.

"I think they've been very, very slow to react despite the fact international experience was telling us how vulnerable care homes are. You'd absolutely have to wonder whether people have become infected and died because of the lack of measures put in place. It's hard not think that there has been an attitude that care home residents are collateral damage given that we knew how older people were going to be affected by this."

Pat Sheehan

Mr Sheehan also said he does not believe the latest support for care homes goes far enough to properly protect residents and reiterated calls for all staff and residents to be tested.

It comes after it was announced last week that anyone being admitted to a care home, either from hospital or the community, must be tested for the virus 48 hours beforehand.

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Richard Pengelly

Richard Pengelly

PA

Richard Pengelly

Guidance from the Department of Health's Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: "Some care providers will be able to accommodate individuals with a confirmed Covid-19 positive through effective isolation strategies or cohorting policies."

Mr Pengelly has said that if a care home cannot isolate an incoming resident, the health trust must find suitable alternative accommodation for the isolation period.

"This alternative accommodation should also be used in the exceptional cases of test results not being available at the point of discharge from hospital," added Mr Pengelly.

Health Minister Robin Swann announced a £6.5m cash injection for care homes across Northern Ireland to help them address staffing issues and cover additional costs during the pandemic. However, Patricia McKeown from public service union Unison said more needs to be done, particularly as care home workers are still being penalised when they have to self isolate and are unable to work.

"Health workers employed by private residential and nursing homes have been at the sharp end of the Covid-19 pandemic from the outset. They were left to the last on testing, guidance and PPE and many were not equipped to deal with the outbreak," she said.

Belfast Telegraph