CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Staff left frightened after Wellesley Road coronavirus deaths

Fears that eleven residents have died with Covid-19

23 April, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Wellesley Road care home

“FRIGHTENED” staff have called on the private operator running a care home to give them more protection after the deaths of at least three residents from the coronavirus.

Shaw Healthcare confirmed three residents from Wellesley Road Care Home had died after being taken to hospital and testing positive for Covid-19.

But a worker at the Gospel Oak home claimed there had been eight further deaths in recent weeks which staff felt had been due to the virus.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one member of staff said their work-load had been strained further by colleagues showing symptoms or being unable to work. Camden Council, which places residents into the home, said last night (Wednesday) that it was working to support care homes in the borough.

Shaw said any residents who have symptoms consistent with coronavirus “are being cared for in line with the appropriate guidance”. The numbers dying in care homes have not been included in the Government’s daily figures on virus victims – provided every afternoon at a press briefing – and there are fears that across the country the total has been underestimated.

It is believed that some may have died without being tested. The work of carers has been described as “the hidden front line” as they fight to keep elderly and vulnerable people – who are more likely to suffer a severe form of the disease if infected – away from danger.

One care worker said: “They are still running the home as if nothing is happening. Staff are working at risk to themselves, without masks, gowns or goggles. Workers are frightened.”

Liz Wheatley, from Camden UNISON, said: “First of all it’s really important that Shaw are open and transparent about what’s happening in their care homes. “If care home staff are concerned I’d encourage them to contact Camden UNISON and we can raise these issues with Shaw and Camden Council.”

Shaw insist that they do have enough personal protective equipment (PPE), despite pressures on supply lines, although staff say they are not being equipped with the most effective gear available.

Mike Smith, Shaw’s chief operating officer, said they are following the most recent Government guidance relating to PPE and are updating their approach whenever the guidance is changed.

He added: “We are very proud of our amazing front-line teams for delivering excellent care while implementing stringent guidelines that considers infection control, deep-cleaning and contingency planning around essential supplies, such as medication and food. There are also regular deliveries of PPE and we are grateful to Camden Council for supplying us with additional PPE as a part of their own package of support. We are following the national guidelines for self-isolation and social distancing of key workers.

“Finally, our thoughts and condolences go to the families and loved ones of the residents who have sadly passed away, including everyone else who has been affected by this terrible outbreak.” Wellesley Road was once run in-house by the council but was outsourced when the 60-room building was redeveloped 10 years ago.

Camden Council said they are in contact with the borough’s care homes on a daily basis to provide support and ensure they have enough supplies, including PPE, and are providing additional equipment if homes are struggling to source it themselves.

A council spokesperson said: “We understand this is a very difficult time for care homes, their staff, residents and their families, so we are continuing to support local care services as much as we can.   We are also improving access to testing, social care staff in Camden are now able to access testing through multiple avenues, including drive-through tests, tests at walk-in centres and home tests.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has unfortunately affected care homes across the country, but we are working closely alongside our care home providers who are working hard to help keep residents and staff as safe as possible during this extremely challenging period.”

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