Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Home COVID-19 Care homes and the virus – a new Chernobyl?

Care homes and the virus – a new Chernobyl?

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A CRISIS is about to unfold in our care homes. Up and down the country thousands of carers and agency workers circulate between numerous care home properties, creating the perfect viral delivery system. Many helpless patients will die. People will read about this scandal with the kind of shock we experienced when we saw the workers cleaning up at Chernobyl even though they knew the risks. We work without masks, we work without uniforms, and we don’t always know where we will be working next; these are the very kind of tinder-dry conditions which Covid-19 will exploit with ease. 

In normal times the small homelike properties we work in give the permanently incapacitated the chance for as normal a life as possible. What our residents cannot do for themselves, we do for them. It is often very difficult work such as cleaning the doubly incontinent many times a day, feeding those who cannot feed themselves and comforting them by just being a familiar face. Even though we are not nurses we are much closer to the teachings of Florence Nightingale than many with degrees in our great hospitals.

Unfortunately, the ever-rotating shifts of staff, many of whom work in other properties, means that far from being ‘self isolating’, the modern care home system sends several strangers each week into our homes to share the same breathing space as our residents, many of whom are already in and out of hospital with serious medical issues. While this is acceptable in the absence of pandemic it is criminal in our present circumstances.

A quarter of all Covid-19 deaths in America are reported to be in care homes. Twenty per cent of all care homes in Madrid have been infected. When care is propped up by large numbers of movable agency workers whose companies have not issued them with any protective gear, but are happy to send them on shifts, sometimes working in two properties a day, such disasters are inevitable.

This is unacceptable. Our residents’ lives matter, our lives matter. There are some 410,000 care residents in the UK and 11,000 care providers, and I am outraged when I think of all the people I know who give their all for the job, an unsung service of ‘Support Workers’, the glue that holds the whole thing together. The burden being put upon them is immense, with little support from the faceless individuals that own the care home companies who can make millions in profits each year. 

Not only do we need proper equipment but we need extra staff so the practice of using the same care workers in several different homes can stop. How about a proportion of the 700,000 who have offered to work as volunteers for the NHS?

Let us hear from the government today before it is too late.

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Lindsey Dearnley
Lindsey Dearnley is a writer and support worker.

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