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Health minister Swann to look at impact of admission policy at care homes

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Solicitor Kevin Winters has raised concerns about the policy

Solicitor Kevin Winters has raised concerns about the policy

PA

Solicitor Kevin Winters has raised concerns about the policy

Health Minister Robin Swann is unable to say whether admitting people with Covid-19 to care homes resulted in outbreaks of the deadly virus.

Speaking at the daily Executive press conference yesterday, the UUP MLA said he has instructed officials to look into the impact of the policy but failed to say whether he stands by the controversial decision.

Despite the admission that work is only under way now to establish whether it resulted in care home outbreaks, the policy is still in place.

A series of experts have claimed the practice of admitting residents with Covid-19 is putting existing residents at risk of catching the virus.

Solicitor Kevin Winters, who is representing the family of a Clifton Nursing Home resident who died with Covid-19, has also raised concerns that the policy led to a deadly outbreak at the facility.

Mr Swann was yesterday asked for a guarantee that allowing anyone who was Covid positive or who had not been tested prior to admission to a care home had not resulted in an outbreak.

He said: "With regards to moving residents from care homes into hospital, there is now a requirement that they are tested up to 48 hours prior to being moved.

"And in regards to where we were in the past, I have asked my department and a number of people in it to look at a piece of work where we actually examine the guidance on how many individuals were involved at that time."

Mr Swann is facing mounting pressure to carry out an inquiry into the care home system and yesterday he said the response across the UK will be examined.

However, he said now is not the time for such an exercise to take place as the priority remains fighting the pandemic.

Referring to the testing programme being rolled out across care homes, Mr Swann said that as of Monday, 5,603 residents had been tested, with 402 testing positive.

A further 5,854 staff had been tested, with 380 testing positive.

"And I would again make the point that for every home we have that either has a current outbreak, or has had an outbreak, we have three homes that have remained Covid-free," he said.

"This remains positive compared to many of our neighbouring jurisdictions."

Mr Swann also took aim at private care home providers for failing to properly resource services.

"I am already on record as saying that we need to take a long hard look at the way we provide social care in Northern Ireland," he said.

"While the sector as a whole has deep-seated problems, there are a great many care homes providing good quality care.

"Government has a central role in making things better. I have already underlined my intentions to oversee sustainable reform and investment, with improved terms and conditions for staff an immediate priority.

"Private care home operators have a huge responsibility as well. That must not be forgotten."

Belfast Telegraph