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Editor's Viewpoint

Answers needed on Northern Ireland care home deaths

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There has always been a nagging suspicion that the UK government did not want to include coronavirus-related deaths in care homes in its official figures

There has always been a nagging suspicion that the UK government did not want to include coronavirus-related deaths in care homes in its official figures

There has always been a nagging suspicion that the UK government did not want to include coronavirus-related deaths in care homes in its official figures

There has always been a nagging suspicion that the UK government did not want to include coronavirus-related deaths in care homes in its official figures.

It took a lot of external pressure and questioning to ensure that those deaths were included - a move that showed the country is second only to the USA in the number of fatalities from the virus.

The question that many people asked was, why would the UK take that attitude?

The answer is simple. There have been a large number of deaths in care homes, at least 40% of the total. That is not a palatable outcome.

Former Health Minister Jim Wells may be exaggerating by suggesting that people in care homes have been abandoned by officialdom. However, the MLA also certainly raises a debate which desperately needs to be held.

It has been revealed that 14 deaths from the virus have occurred in a single Co Down care home and that there are confirmed or suspected cases in 110 care homes.

That is a substantial proportion of the total number of homes in Northern Ireland, and registered deaths from coronavirus in care homes is the only graph in the province which continues to rise. Every other sector has plateaued or is showing a decrease.

We cannot blame the staff in those care homes who have been faced with duties of care for which they were not prepared did not anticipate.

They have performed heroically, given that those in their care are most obviously among the most vulnerable.

Many have even stayed in the homes in an attempt to prevent the virus being carried in to residents.

What we need are answers to the following questions.

Why did it take so long to provide care home workers with adequate personal protection equipment, even though the shortage was well publicised?

What protocols were put in place to protect the aged residents?

Why does the death toll in care homes continue to rise?

What is being done now to bring the situation under control?

If these were children's homes, there would be a national outcry.

Surely officialdom does not regard residents of care homes as people in the twilight of life whose deaths, if not inevitable, are to be expected?

When we look back on this pandemic, we may well regard the deaths in care homes as a national scandal.

Belfast Telegraph