Coronavirus 'could close half of Wales' care homes'

By Eleanor Gruffydd-Jones
BBC Politics Wales

Related Topics
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionCare homes are facing increasing costs pressures during the coronavirus outbreak

Wales could lose half of its care homes within a year unless urgent action is taken, a leading industry figure has said.

Care Forum Wales chair Mario Kreft said many are already taking out loans and considering imminent closure because of rising costs and reduced revenues.

He said the situation would be exacerbated with coronavirus putting the already fragile sector in jeopardy.

There are 643 care homes for over-65s in Wales.

"We have members who are increasing their staffing costs. They're increasing other costs like buying their own PPE," Mr Kreft said.

"And of course we're seeing falling occupancy as people pass and as other homes choose not to admit people, because they're terrified that it's going to introduce the virus into those homes and obviously affect the residents they have."

Mr Kreft said a typical care home needed to have 90% occupancy to be viable and anything below 85% is not sustainable - but some homes are down 25 to 30% occupancy.

He added that some had been in touch with Care Forum Wales, which represents 450 homes, about closures this week.

"We have got people that are seriously talking to their banks, seriously talking within their organisation, whether the best thing and the safest thing for everybody is simply to close the doors," he said.

"We've never, ever encountered anything quite like this in the history of the care sector in Wales, and the UK."

image captionMario Kreft believes the sector faces challenges like never before

Mr Kreft said there would be more closures "week on week" through the summer unless a plan is put in place.

One south Wales care home for dementia residents, which is part of the Caron Group, said it was losing £10,000 a week as a result of an outbreak, because of the bill for extra resources to fight the virus and a fall in the number of residents.

Managing director Sanjiv Joshi said he was using the reserves of his group of 14 homes to prop it up and was talking to the bank about loans, but he did not think this was a sustainable solution.

Glyn Williams, who runs a 28-bed residential home at Bodedern on Anglesey, has launched an online appeal to raise £33,000 towards the costs, fearing he will have to shut within the month.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionCare home owners are setting up funding pages and taking out loans

The Welsh Government announced £40m to help the adult social care sector get through the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesman said: "This is ring-fenced and is being provided through the local authority hardship fund. Further details will be available early next week."

But care home owners want it to go straight to the frontline now and a plan devised for the future.

"There is the promise help but there isn't actual help and we don't know where this help is going to come from and how long it will be sustained for," Mr Kreft said.

"We could possibly lose half of the care homes within a year, because that is the sort of scale of this."

A Welsh Local Government Association spokesman said it would work with organisations to support protect vulnerable residents.

Janet Finch-Saunders, the Welsh Conservative spokesperson for social care, said: "If this stark warning comes true, the human impact will be devastating for the residents, their families, and the employees of care homes here in Wales."

More on this story

Around the BBC