Care homes plead for coronavirus help

By Alison Holt
Social Affairs Correspondent, BBC News

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image copyrightFamily handout
image captionGiuseppe Casciello has contracted coronavirus at his care home in Hove

Some care homes working to protect vulnerable residents from coronavirus are facing staffing and equipment shortages, the BBC has learned.

Managers have particularly called for upgraded personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect residents and staff.

A Sussex home with 20 residents has two confirmed Covid-19 cases and 13 people with symptoms. Nearly half its 28 staff are sick or self-isolating.

The government said it was working to provide the equipment needed.

The BBC heard from almost 40 care providers supporting thousands of vulnerable people across the country.

Mark Adams, CEO of Community Integrated Care, said the charity had 4,500 frontline care workers, but 500 people were self-isolating before the virus hit "crisis point".

He said managers were working to ensure supplies of aprons, gloves and food but were "massively short" of face masks.

Staff needed the full safety equipment their hospital colleagues had but it was "generally not available" in social care, he said.

image captionAt Oaklands, manager Betti Koder said staff had managed to keep some residents symptom-free

Jonathan Green, chief operating officer at Choice Care, said information on the government website GOV.UK was being updated, but he criticised a lack of "two-way" communication and a lack of central coordination over the supply of PPE and guidance on future staffing shortages.

In Hove, Oaklands Nursing Home has faced a coronavirus outbreak, but manager Beti Koder said staff managed to keep five residents free of symptoms so were "doing something right".

She said staff worked closely with residents, adding: "We are feeding them, changing them, they're coughing into us... we need proper protection."

Hove's Labour MP Peter Kyle has claimed a 10-day delay in sending tests for three residents caused the outbreak to spread.

Gisella Casciello-Rogers, whose 94-year-old father Giuseppe Casciello lives at Oaklands, found out on Thursday he is one of the confirmed cases.

"We've pretty much been sitting by the phone just waiting for the inevitable," she said. "We're all scared. Everyone's scared. But he's a strong man."

Mrs Casciello-Rogers said the number of staff in quarantine had left the home "in a precarious situation", adding: "Homes have to have the test kits immediately."

Ms Koder has appealed for help in hiring a campervan or caravan for staff to stay in rather than returning to their homes and risk passing anything on to their loved ones and has asked anyone who can assist to contact the home.

Dr Rachael Hornigold, acting consultant in health protection for Public Health England, said care homes report any suspected cases to local public health officials who passed details to the NHS to arrange testing.

She said homes were advised about symptoms and infection-control measures and asked to monitor residents, while any staff with symptoms should self-isolate.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "On Wednesday alone, 22m facemasks, 15m aprons, 13.5m gloves and more than 1m eye protectors were delivered to front-line workers.

"The full weight of the government is behind this effort and we are working closely with industry, social care providers, the NHS, and the army so all our NHS and care staff have the protection they deserve."

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