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Care Homes Coronavirus Row in East Riding

Care Homes Coronavirus Row in East Riding

Published by Jon Burke with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Joe Gerrard at 12:47pm 8th July 2020. (Updated at 1:45pm 8th July 2020)

East Riding opposition councillors have launched an inquiry into coronavirus in care homes, after a spike in deaths at facilities across the region.

Liberal Democrat opposition leader, Councillor David Nolan, and the party’s health spokesperson, Councillor Dave Boynton, both said “serious questions” remained over the deaths and tests in the homes.

Cllr Nolan claimed Snaith Hall, near Goole, lost a third of its residents to coronavirus.

A total of 44 people were recorded as living there in 2017, according to the last Care Quality Commission inspection, although it is not known exactly how many residents have been living there throughout the pandemic.

Cllr Boynton called for blanket testing of staff across care homes going forward at East Riding Council’s first full meeting since lockdown began. Council figures showed there were 110 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in East Riding care homes up to June 5.

Council leader, Richard Burton, said the authority had supported all East Riding care homes and providers throughout the pandemic and paid tribute to those who had died.

Cllr Nolan said offering condolences was not enough and added the East Riding needed to be prepared for a second wave potentially more deadly than the first.

He said:

“The government told us that they had put an iron ring around care homes, but it looks more like it was a paper chain. Elderly patients were being put back into care homes.

One care home in Snaith reportedly lost a third of its residents to coronavirus. At least two homes in Withernsea lost residents.

The picture has been improving and the council’s response has been generally positive.

We’ve done better than the government, but as a council we could have done far better than we did.

We should also be expecting a second wave. If you look at the Spanish Flu pandemic you find deaths during the first wave were much lower than the second.”

Cllr Boynton said serious questions had to be asked about how coronavirus was dealt with in care homes up to May.

He said:

“When the first case of coronavirus was reported in January, the NHS predicted that up to 57 per cent of deaths could be in residential homes.

Questions have to be asked at a national level about whether there was a protective ring around care homes.

We also need to start blanket testing to protect staff. Staff were only tested if they showed coronavirus symptoms, but we know that some people caught the virus, didn’t show symptoms and then passed it on to others.

Overall the council has done a great job, but please do not think this is over. The East Riding was not hit as hard as other areas and that might mean we’re more vulnerable to a second wave. Please let’s get those blanket tests in place.”

Cllr Burton said:

“It’s remarkable to think about how much the council and its partners have achieved in the face of coronavirus.

The council’s strategy is still based on suppressing coronavirus and protecting vulnerable residents. We have to be prepared for a possible second peak, it’s going to be a difficult balancing act.

Throughout the pandemic, the council has supported all 140 care homes and 40 care providers who are looking after some of our most vulnerable residents to live the best lives they can.

We’ve also been in touch with families across the East Riding who care for their loved ones.”

Bridlington Lib Dem Cllr Mike Heslop-Mullens will be helping his Group on the East Riding Council to carry out an inquiry into Covid deaths in Care Homes, including those in the Bridlington area.

Mike said:

“Bridlington has a high number of elderly residents and care homes. This investigation by the Liberal Democrats will be carried out in order to establish what has gone on in our Care Homes and Community Nursing. He added: " Importantly it will be independent of the Council. It is not a criticism of Council staff, who have done a great job under the circumstances. But the Council is a customer of many of the Care Homes and we don’t want that to get in the way of unearthing the evidence."

The Lib Dem Group says it's hoping to get the answers to at least three important questions:

  • What testing had been taken before residents were released into Care Homes?
  • Were care home staff properly protected with sufficient PPE and trained in Infection control?
  • Were Care Homes "hung out to dry" in the early stages as hospital beds were emptied under Government instruction? From FOI information obtained by the HDM, we know of at least 7 patients who tested positive and yet were sent into East riding area Care Homes. 85% of patients were discharged without testing.

Mike added:

"I also want to know why it took until the 19th May for the decision to re-open Waters Ward at Bridlington Hospital. The instruction from the Government to empty the Hospitals of patients was on the 19th March. Why did it take a delay of 8 weeks for them to announce the re-opening of Waters Ward?. Somebody has been "asleep at the wheel" and put our Care Home residents and staff at further risk."

The Lib Dem Group said:

"Experts expect a second wave of COVID from September and with the relaxation of lockdown this area could be at high risk?  We will be looking at the responses as it is important, we learn from what has just happened and can prepare earlier for a second wave.

It is estimated that at least 35% of Care Homes in East Yorkshire are known to have had an outbreak of the Virus."

Cllr Dave Boynton (Lib Dem) attended the Council meeting.

In his role as Lib Dem Health Spokesperson he said:  

"The figures could be higher than those reported because of the lack of regular and routine testing. Deaths may have been recorded under another co-morbidity but caused by COVID. There are also "Super spreaders" who may show no symptoms but are positive and spreading the virus. Not all Health settings are having their staff and patients tested and that needs to change."

Cllr Heslop-Mullens has sent a Freedom of Information request to York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for statistics on residents from Bridlington who have been treated for COVID and returned to the community. He has also recommended that Bridlington Hospital becomes a Green Hospital. This is one where all non-COVID patients can be treated in isolation from hospitals treating COVID patients, which will ensure reduced risk of cross-contamination and enable more patients to be treated quickly for elective surgery and treatment for life-threatening complaints

Meanwhile, two senior East Riding councillors have criticised the Liberal Democrat opposition leader for launching an “investigation based on anecdotes rather than evidence” into care home deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Portfolioholder for adult and carer services at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Cllr Vanessa Walker, said:

“The Lib Dem Group intends to carry out its own survey of care homes, but this investigation is apparently based on anecdotes rather than evidence.

My fear is that this will take up valuable time from care home staff, who are still working tirelessly to look after their residents, including those with COVID-19. 

This is not the time for political posturing, but it is important that our population know the facts, rather than be encouraged to fear that their health and wellbeing is not considered to be of the utmost importance by East Riding of Yorkshire Council and its health and social care partners.

My invitation to any member of the Lib Dem Group is to contact me personally, just pick up the phone and tell me about any concerns. I promise I will investigate immediately, which might be a more efficient and timely way of resolving any problems or issues as they arise.”

Councillor Victoria Aitken, Chair of the East Riding Health, Care and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which includes all political party membership, said:

“I’m confident this committee will conduct its own unbiased scrutiny into any COVID-19-related issues supported by professional council officers.

We are already investigating issues that have been brought to our attention and there is total commitment that lessons will be learnt where genuine failings are revealed.

This is not the time to play party politics. This is the time to examine how our care homes responded to the crisis, how our health sector generally responded and what lessons can be learned.

That work is already being undertaken, for example the Committee has already looked into the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and is assured that PPE has been available to care homes throughout the pandemic.”

Cllr Walker concluded by reporting:

“I attended, via Zoom, the cross-party Health Care and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee on 16 June 2020.

Any member of the council and members of the public are free to attend via YouTube streaming and minutes are published on the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s website.

My observation is that the Chairman and members care passionately about the health and wellbeing of all East Riding residents.

It takes a balanced approach showing appreciation to all those who’ve worked hard, but also it does not shy away from raising challenges where appropriate.”


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