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Patients who tested positive for Covid sent back to care homes, confirm trusts

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Patients who tested positive for Covid-19 were then discharged to care homes (Joe Giddens/PA)

Patients who tested positive for Covid-19 were then discharged to care homes (Joe Giddens/PA)

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Patients who tested positive for Covid-19 were then discharged to care homes (Joe Giddens/PA)

An MLA has called for an immediate investigation into how patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 came to be discharged from hospitals into care homes.

SDLP health spokesman Colin McGrath - who sits on Stormont's powerful Health Committee - made the call after health officials confirmed the practice had taken place.

Six of the cases were in the Northern Trust area and one was in the Southern Trust.

Health Minister Robin Swann has previously described care homes as the "front line" in the war against Covid-19 locally.

Latest statistics show more than 40% of virus deaths here took place in care homes.

Friday's weekly bulletin from statistics agency Nisra indicated the death toll linked to Covid-19 here has reached 854, 349 of them in care homes.

Concerns have been raised around the discharge of patients with coronavirus into care homes.

Responding to Freedom of Information requests, the Northern Trust and Southern Trust confirmed they had sent people who tested positive to care facilities.

Of the 433 patients discharged from Northern Trust hospitals to care homes between March 1 and April 15, 69 were tested for Covid-19 prior to discharge.

Of those tested, 63 patients produced a negative result. However, six patients discharged to care homes in this period tested positive.

"Six patients were discharged with a positive Covid result to their own care home residence over the period March 26, 2020 to April 9, 2020. This was in keeping with the guidance at that time," a spokesperson said.

"These patients with known Covid-positive status no longer required consultant-led care and would have been discharged to their own care home in consultation with care home managers with appropriate discharge advice on the need for isolation and use of personal protective equipment [PPE] for staff.

"There would have been a full handover and discussion on the appropriateness of returning to the care home."

Of the 278 patients who were discharged from Southern Trust hospitals to care homes between March 1 and April 15, 59 were tested for Covid-19 prior to discharge. The trust also said this was in line with the guidance at the time.

"Care home residents would also have been tested if they met the case definition and required admission to hospital," it continued.

"The criteria for testing was broadened in version three to include all symptomatic residents in care homes and patients being discharged from hospital to a care home."

Of those tested, 54 patients produced a negative result.

Four were described as "positive during spell (in hospital) and negative prior to discharge".

However, one patient discharged to a care home between March 1 and April 15 did test positive for Covid-19.

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Call for probe: SDLP’s Colin McGrath

Call for probe: SDLP’s Colin McGrath

Call for probe: SDLP’s Colin McGrath

SDLP health spokesman Colin McGrath said he was very concerned at the news.

"If they were discharged with the virus and sent into a nursing home, we need an immediate investigation.

"Because if those individuals went back into homes and then spread the disease - and people died, there are very serious questions to be asked.

"The investigation would need to cover what conditions were for these people. Were they segregated, were there staff specially assigned to them, or did he staff work with them and then also with other home residents?

"There would need to be a check on the homes that those individuals went into - were there any cases of coronavirus within a two-week period of the patients being returned to those homes?"

"We would want to be getting to the bottom of this mighty quick" the SDLP MLA told the Belfast Telegraph.

Belfast Telegraph