Nine people – including a nurse – have died in 10 days at a Dundee care home at the centre of negligence allegations.
Pitkerro Care Centre confirmed the fatalities after a former care worker revealed she had resigned in “disgust” at the conditions she was forced to work under.
She has reported Pitkerro to the Care Inspectorate, which confirmed it was “considering all information” carefully.
Operator Hudson Healthcare has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, stating it had followed national safety guidance “every step of the way”.
Managing director Samuel Maierovits said: “We want to be clear: we have an enormous responsibility, so we should be held accountable for our actions.
“However, there’s a difference between accountability and shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre; some of the misinformation being shared is just plain dangerous, and is preventing us from doing our jobs.”
While the death of a nurse at Pitkerro was confirmed as coronavirus-related, the possible link of Covid-19 to the deaths of eight residents is still being assessed by GPs.
“Death is a constant part of care home life but it doesn’t make any of these losses any easier to deal with,” said Mr Maierovits.
“Our thoughts are with all of the families and friends of those who have passed on; as we fight this virus together, so too we mourn together.”
GMB Scotland, which represents a significant number of staff at Pitkerro, hit out at Hudson Healthcare last week after receiving what it described as “very disturbing” information about its management culture.
Organiser Drew Duffy said it suggested the home was “ignoring public health guidelines and compromising the health and safety of staff and service users alike.”
More staff have since come forward to speak to the Tele, including Lee Blake, who contacted the Care Inspectorate.
She claimed there was an “atrocious” lack of PPE for staff, with carers being asked to wear one apron and one pair of gloves for an entire 12-hour shift.
Dirty PPE had also been discarded on a trolley left in a corridor, which Hudson has since apologised for and is investigating.
In response, Mr Maierovits said Hudson was being distracted from its primary focus of providing the best care for residents by a “constant barrage of criticism in the media and online”.
He added: “We know this is an extremely difficult time for so many people and anxieties are running high. That’s why, so far, we have taken a conciliatory approach.
“We will continue doing this as we think collaboration and transparency will lead to the best outcomes, but we are now considering all options because of the threat to our staff and residents, including legal action.”
Mr Maierovits said Hudson had followed Health Protection Scotland’s guidance of the use of PPE, implementing change “as quickly as possible” when amendments were made.
He added: “We are doing all we can to protect our residents and staff.
“We know that people are concerned and completely understand. However, we have to be able to do our job.
“We are working closely with the local authority, Health Protection Scotland and Care Inspectorate to ensure we are following the official guidance, and will continue to do so.”
The Care Inspectorate said it understood this “is a really worrying time for people who experience care, their loved ones and families and for those who work in care”.
A spokesman added: “Care services across Scotland are working tirelessly under very challenging circumstances to care for people.
“The Care Inspectorate is working closely with care providers, health and social care partnerships, care industry leaders and the Scottish Government to ensure services get the support they need during the pandemic.
“Concerns have been raised with us about this service, we are in close contact with them and we are considering all information given to us carefully.”
In full: Hudson Healthcare’s statement
Managing director of Hudson Healthcare, Samuel Maierovits, said: “All of our staff have done an incredible job over the past eight weeks. So many of them are going above and beyond the call of duty to protect and care for our residents. Each and every one of them is a hero, and they deserve to be applauded every single day.
“Unfortunately, many of us are being distracted from our primary focus of providing the best possible care to our residents by this constant barrage of attacks in the media and online. We want to be clear: we have an enormous responsibility, so we should be held accountable for our actions.
“However, there’s a difference between accountability and shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre; some of the misinformation being shared is just plain dangerous, and is preventing us from doing our jobs.
“We know this is an extremely difficult time for so many people and anxieties are running high.
“That’s why, so far, we have taken a conciliatory approach. We will continue doing this as we think collaboration and transparency will lead to the best outcomes but we are now considering all options because of the threat to our staff and residents, including legal action.
“We can confirm that eight residents have sadly passed away in the last 10 days. Covid-19 is a possible cause of death for some of these residents and external medical practitioners, such as GPs, are making these assessments.
“We have previously confirmed that one member of staff tragically passed away in hospital as a result of contracting Covid-19. She was wonderfully compassionate, extremely hard working and much loved.
“Death is a constant part of care home life but it doesn’t make any of these losses any easier to deal with. Our thoughts are with all of the families and friends of those who have passed on; as we fight this virus together, so too we mourn together.
“In regard to PPE, and more broadly our actions to combat Covid-19, we have closely followed Health Protection Scotland’s advice every step of the way.
“The guidance has been amended a number of times over the past six weeks, which is to be expected as our collective understanding of Covid-19 develops. We have implemented every change as quickly as possible in the best interests of our residents and staff.
“It is understandable that, where guidance is changing so often, people are confused. This is compounded by the fact that there has been some dangerous misinformation regarding PPE which caused confusion and anxiety across the care sector; namely, that carers should be provided with the same PPE as is required in intensive care units.
“This is plainly not the case, as care homes have different needs to ICUs. However, it underlines the challenge we face in ensuring our staff, residents’ relatives and the public understand what we are doing and why.
“Similarly, since March 13, all staff have been instructed to self-isolate should they or a member of their household be symptomatic, and a number of these individuals have tested positive. Thankfully, many have already recovered and are returning to work as and when it is safe to do so.
“For those staff self-isolating, we are also calling regularly to ensure they are keeping safe and well. Since March 16, we have also checked the temperature of every member of staff before and after each shift, as well as requiring them to complete a verbal health questionnaire with a senior colleague.
“We are doing all we can to protect our residents and staff. We know that people are concerned and completely understand. However, we have to be able to do our job. We are working closely with the local authority, Health Protection Scotland and the Care Inspectorate to ensure we are following the official guidance, and will continue to do so. Likewise, we promise to continue working with our staff, residents’ relatives and the public too.
“Finally, I would like to thank the dozens of residents’ relatives who have got in touch to share their support for our incredible staff. Your appreciation makes a massive difference. We hope that we can continue repaying your faith in us.”
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