A review of the delivery of social care will be held “in due course” but tackling Covid-19 takes priority, the Health Secretary has said.
Jeane Freeman told the Health and Sport Committee at Holyrood that work will be done to overhaul the care sector after the pandemic has been controlled.
Ms Freeman and the Scottish Government have been under scrutiny over the impact of the virus, which recent statistics show has killed more people in care homes than hospitals.
The Scottish Government has also faced criticism after it emerged 900 people were discharged from hospital into a care home in March without being tested for Covid-19.
Ms Freeman told the committee 38% of adult care homes have not reported a “Covid-19 incident” during the outbreak and 58% of homes have not done so in the last two weeks.
Responding to a question from SNP MSP George Adam, the Health Secretary described the debate around social care as “entirely legitimate”.
She said: “There is a debate to be had about how social care looks in the medium to long-term, how it is funded, how it is regulated and how it is provided, and I think that is entirely appropriate.
“My focus at the moment, of course as you would expect it to be, is on what we need to do now and in the weeks and months ahead to provide as much protection and support to the care home sector and its residents and staff as we possibly can.”
Despite stressing her focus is on the current crisis, the Health Secretary said there should be “early steps” to have discussions with “interested parties” on possible changes to the sector, which should include the Scottish public.
Addressing the issue of those discharged from hospital into care homes, the Health Secretary said she believes it to be “entirely appropriate” to ensure patients are not left in hospital without a clinical need to be.
Responding to a question from Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs, Ms Freeman said: “It was correct in the circumstances where we reasonably anticipated based on the evidence that we had and the judgment that we made about that, that continuing to stay in a hospital setting that was gearing up to receive large numbers of Covid cases was not the safest place for someone clinically fit to leave hospital to remain.”
The Health Secretary said that judgment was “right” given the knowledge of the virus they had at the time.
She added: “At the time, we took all the steps that we could reasonably been expected to take.”
In her opening remarks to the committee, the Health Secretary said “lessons would be learned” on the impact of the virus in Scotland’s care homes.
She added: “We have followed the best advice and taken the judgments that we believe to be correct from the outset of this pandemic.
“There are undoubtedly lessons for us to learn and more work for us to do.”