A County Derry care home manager has urged the Health and Social Care Trust to think creatively when dealing with staff shortages resulting from the spread of Covid-19.
Regina Brady manages two care homes in Belfast and has called on the Trust to relax some of its recruitment regulations in the face of an impending staffing crisis.
The Ballinderry native has suggested school staff, who have much of the same safeguarding training as care home staff, could be upskilled in the event of widespread school closures.
She said: “Over the next few weeks, there could be thousands of people sitting at home saying they’d love to be able to help someone but not knowing what do to.
“Staff from schools coming in would breach a regulation because they haven’t been recruited for that particular business and an Access NI check doesn’t mention care.
“The same checks have been done - they have been recruited robustly with the same safeguarding and first aid training as us. That skillset is there, and it can be transferred over.”
Regina closed her two care homes to visitors last week, going further than public health advice to implement stricter visiting times.
She feels she can currently guarantee the safety of the residents but is worried about potential staff shortages as the virus continues its spread.
She said: “For the first couple of days the girls thought I had completely lost my mind and gone OTT, but now the enormity of what’s going to happen is really hitting home.
“You can be one or two down, but you cope without a few functions for a day, but you’re looking at 7 days and maybe even worse.
“I have a duty of care towards staff. I might even lose them through the risk-assessment process as opposed to contracting the virus or thinking they have it.
“Some residents rely on us for everything. They will fall if we’re not with them at all times. They will not eat if we’re not able to feed them. They will not be able to go to the toilet.
“They rely on us to change them and if we’re not able to change them for longer than usual, the skin breaks down and they start becoming ill.
“I have a lot of residents with dementia who require stimulation throughout the day and can become unsettled and agitated. Are we going to be able to safely administer medication?
“I can upskill staff, but I need people cooking, cleaning and doing laundry, or even people walking around the home to avoid panic. Those small things make a massive difference.”
Care homes face stark reality as coronavirus continues to spread, and Regina is frustrated that authorities are skirting around the issue.
“We need to get that awareness out here that the care homes are going to be crippled.
“I don’t want to be three months down the line thinking the choice I’m making today is this person doesn’t get fed or this person doesn’t fall.
“I’ve asked the Trust not to ignore the elephant in the room.”
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