CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Coronavirus deaths now confirmed in ten out of our eleven care homes

Prime minister says he ‘bitterly regrets’ outbreaks in homes for elderly and the vulnerable

15 May, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he ‘bitterly regrets’ outbreaks in care homes

ALL but one of Camden’s 11 care homes has now had at least one coronavirus-related death among its residents.

The Town Hall says the numbers in each home are low, but the total is un­known and could yet be underestimated as it is understood not everybody who has died in recent weeks was tested for Covid-19 or counted as a care home death if they were transferred to hospital.

Public Health England’s data showed all eleven homes had seen an outbreak, although this is disputed by the council.

Conservative councillor Oliver Cooper, the leader of the opposition, said it was time for Camden to be “upfront and open” about the numbers involved – and for the first time openly accused the council of failing to protect care homes.

He said Camden stuck out “like a sore thumb” compared with most other areas, adding: “Westminster has 16 care homes, of which just half have had infections, and Hackney has 15 and just a quarter. Both are demographically very similar boroughs to Camden.”

Cllr Cooper added: “As a result, the large number of outbreaks is clearly because of poor systems being in place in Camden, not because of demographics or because Camden has few care homes.

The fact is, Camden has not kept any residents in care homes safe. It’s been frustrating not to be able to get open and honest data on what is going on in care homes. Camden should be a lot more upfront and open about its failings.”

He said Camden needed to have a “corona cordon” around care homes as restrictions on movement were eased this week. All of the care homes are run by private operators, although two, Wellesley Road and Maitland Park, are run through a council contract.

Questioned on care home outbreaks by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “There is an epidemic going on in care homes which is something I bitterly regret and we’ve been working very hard for weeks to get it down.”

Martin Pratt, Camden’s deputy chief executive, told Monday’s Covid-19 oversight committee: “We have been contacting each home on a daily basis to ensure that there is appropriate PPE [personal protective equipment] and there’s been no shortcomings in that regard. “Now we want to really focus on ensuring appropriate testing regimes are in place. Clearly, we are taking this very seriously.”

The council began work with the Department of Health on Monday on a new service for care home staff and residents to be tested for the virus even if they do not have symptoms.

A Camden Council spokesperson said care staff in the borough could now access testing through multiple options, including drive through tests, tests at walk-in centres and home tests.

They added: “We understand this is a difficult time for care homes, their staff, residents and families so we are continuing to work closely alongside all our care home providers who are working hard to help keep residents and staff as safe as possible during this challenging period.”

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