Wales

Coronavirus: 'Profound loss' of 15 Newport nursing home residents

Tregwilym Lodge Image copyright Karen Healey
Image caption The nursing home had 73 residents with end-stage dementia

A nursing home has seen the "catastrophic" death of 15 residents in a month, its manager has said.

Fourteen of the elderly residents at Tregwilym Lodge in Rogerstone, Newport, had symptoms of Covid-19, but none of them were tested.

General manager Karen Healey said one or two residents would be expected to die in a normal month.

The Welsh Government said its policy was now to test all care home residents with coronavirus symptoms.

At the start of the outbreak the home had 73 residents with end-stage dementia.

Mrs Healey, who has been a nurse for 40 years, said Covid-19 was cited as a cause of death on two residents' death certificates, but 14 had coughs and high temperatures.

"From a staffing and care point of view it's been catastrophic," she said.

"But more importantly the profound loss and the numbers we've been dealing with - and the families - has been absolutely unbelievable.

"We've never seen anything like it where we've lost so many so quickly."

Image copyright Karen Healey
Image caption Karen Healey has described the "profound loss" at the nursing home

She said she asked for tests to be carried by Public Health Wales in line with Welsh Government policy in late March. But it took until 7 April for three residents to be tested.

Two were positive and there was no result for the third, with all of these residents still alive.

She said it was distressing for families - who have not been able to visit relatives in care homes - to lose someone without knowing whether they had coronavirus.

"So I've had to have very difficult conversations with the families around 'I believe your loved one died of Covid, but I can't confirm it'," she said.

The home is in the Aneurin Bevan health board area, which emerged early on as a coronavirus hot spot.

Mrs Healey said 23 staff members at Tregwilym have had symptoms of the disease, and five have tested positive.

'Abandoned'

Tests for key workers can be booked in advance at Cardiff City Stadium or at Rodney Parade in Newport.

Mrs Healey said that was "fine if they have cars but actually a lot of social care staff are on minimum wage and can't afford cars".

She praised her staff and said the local health board had been "hugely supportive", but she felt that nursing homes had been "abandoned".

"It feels like we've reached the peak, but I'm apprehensive to say that because we don't know how this virus behaves," she said.

Local health boards were told by the chief medical officer on 23 April that all care home residents with symptoms should be tested.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "All symptomatic care home workers (and symptomatic members of their household) should be referred for testing by their employer.

"All care home residents returning from hospital are now routinely tested too.

"Together with other measures and precautions, current evidence shows this is the best way to stop the spread of the virus and keep residents and staff safe."

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 before being discharged from hospital and who is due to go into a care home will instead be looked after by the NHS in "a step-down facility", he said.

They will not go back to their care home until they test negative.

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