The daughter of a care home resident who has COVID-19 has spoken out about the need for care workers to receive adequate personal protection.
The lady, who wished to remain anonymous to protect the identity of her parents, has one parent being looked after in a Home while the other is being cared for in the community.
She believes that care workers have been unnecessarily placed at risk because of inadequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
In her view, the Department of Health guidance is flawed which states: “If the individual being cared for has no respiratory symptoms of COVID19 then ‘no additional PPE is required above and beyond normal good hygiene practices.
“For most patient activities, this will include the use of only disposable gloves and disposable aprons”
For a suspected or confirmed case, providers of domiciliary care ‘should only use PPE when delivering close personal care i.e. within 1 metre of a person with symptoms of COVID-19 or a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19,’ the Department advises.
PPE stock released by Business Services Organisation during March 2020 included 39,600 aprons, 1,038,150 fluid-resistant facemasks and 223,800 fluid resistant gloves.
The NI government said the release of stock from the pandemic stockpile announced last week will immediately increase the volumes of stock available for distribution as required. This will include access to over 3 million items of PPE including aprons, masks and gloves.
The Department of Health has stated that it is working with independent care providers and following discussions between key representatives of the independent homecare sector and senior departmental officials both sides have reiterated their commitment to protecting staff and following the expert advice on infection control, working jointly to ensure the provision of appropriate PPE to the frontline. And to maximising the contribution that valued home care workers are making to those who are vulnerable.
In addition the Department made clear that the sector must be viewed as an equal partner in the battle against COVID-19, that the Department would support recruitment to the sector, including through minimising burdens and speeding up pre-employment checks. And that specific support would be in place for the sector, including to help ensure financial stability.
But the concerned daughter said workers are being told they have to wait on the ‘go ahead’ from the Western Trust before receiving PPE.
She said: “The Trust told them that they’re waiting to see cases first and that’s what I’m disgusted about. That means they’re waiting to see deaths amongst this community before they act.
“I believe other Trusts are doing the same. They’re issuing stock to these caring agencies and homes but they’re not allowed to start until they have cases – that is way too late.
“Everybody knows that in many cases patients are asymptomatic, at the beginning they said people could carry coronavirus without symptoms for up to two weeks and now people are saying it could be longer.
“I now have a dad who has COVID and those making decisions have to be held to account.
“They have stocks of it there ready to be given out that’s what makes it even worse.
“We need to stop more older people from dying and getting COVID.”
Above: Mary Murphy with one of the face masks she made.
She commended voluntary groups in the community who have been making and donating PPE to frontline carers, as well as O’Neills sportswear which has supplied certain agencies.
A special mention was given to the ‘Covid-19 cloth face masks for all Ireland’ Facebook page which is a crowdsourced group of voluntary sewists making the best possible reusable cotton face masks to help with current shortages. They are donating these for free.
One of the people behind the page, Mary Murphy, has a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering and runs her own lingerie business.
It is important to note, the group does acknowledge: “These masks will not completely stop the wearer from transmitting the virus but they go a long way because of their design.”
The Department of Health and Western Trust were asked for comment but no response was received at the time of going to press.
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