Dundee City Council leader John Alexander has addressed the death toll of people in city care homes who have died from suspected Covid-19 – calling the situation “horrendous”.
Speaking to the Tele’s Steven Rae via an online video interview, the Strathmartine councillor spoke about deaths in all city care homes, including Pitkerro Care Centre in Dundee.
Then, on Friday, it was confirmed a further two fatalities were being investigated at the home, with the residents’ deaths occurring on Wednesday, operator Hudson Healthcare confirmed.
The two most recent deaths come 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.
Hudson Healthcare has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, stating it had followed national safety guidance “every step of the way”.
Speaking on Thursday, before the two most recent deaths had been confirmed, councillor Alexander said: “Absolutely, I think we’ve got a duty of care to every single person in the city, whether or not we’re directly providing that service through one of our own care homes, or whether it be privately or voluntary-run.
“The point is, each of those people is a grandmother, is a parent – is a relative of somebody, and we’ve really got to remember that when we get these daily updates with the latest figures, the number of cases and the number of deaths, they’re not just figures.
“I know two people, it’s second or third hand, who have lost loved ones to Covid-19. Dundee is that type of place – we always describe it as a big village – so this really has a big impact on the wider community.
“And like you say, it’s really essential that we do everything we possibly can to save every single one of those individuals.
“My biggest concern has been around care homes, for the very reason that if you look at the demographics of those who have the most severe reaction or unfortunately die from Covid-19, it tends to be older generation. Obviously, in a care home setting where many people have underlying health issues, that’s a huge concern.”
Councillor Alexander said as a result of the high death toll, he had been in contact with the Scottish Government, and action taken included direct delivery of PPE to Dundee.
He also said the council was working with NHS Tayside and the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) to help any facility in need, both in the private sector, or run by the local authority.
He added: “We’re dealing with people’s lives, so we will continue to work really hard on that agenda, to mitigate any potential spread in those (care home) settings, but also to protect staff and to make sure people don’t die as a result of infection in any care home.”
Mr Alexander said there are 27 care homes in the city, 21 of which are privately-run, adding: “(Private care homes) play a really pivotal role in providing that service, and we’ve got to make sure that we are supporting them through what is the most difficult – and horrendous, in many ways – period that they’ve ever had to work through.”
Specifically discussing the 10 deaths at Pitkerro Care Home, the council leader said: “The bottom line is, it’s devastating when you consider that many people. Even if it was one it would be devastating, so to lose 10 people in one setting, is horrendous.
“Certainly from the feedback I’m getting everybody is following (hygiene) guidance. Direct delivery of PPE is really important to make sure that staff as well as those people who are in those care settings.
“All of that is in place and there have been weekly deliveries of PPE.”
The councillor went on to laud all the work which has taken place in the community, mentioning in particular secondary schools which have been printing 3D visors, and said that on a daily basis he was being contacted by private companies offering to provide items such as hand sanitiser and face masks.
He continued: “There’s direct contact with each of the care homes, so if more support is required, if staffing becomes more of an issue – whatever it may be – we’re not just going to leave those care homes to carry on regardless, we’re going to support them in any way we possibly can.
“The council is working hand in glove with the HSPC and NHS Tayside to make sure that each and every one of those care settings has the right PPE, has the right procedures in place to prevent any further spread. And, where there is infection, working with the teams that are going into the care settings to make sure that we provide the best care we possibly can.
“Like I said, it’s devastating every time you hear of a death because it’s somebody’s relative, and I keep thinking, you put yourself in that scenario; if that was my gran, if that was a parent, it’s horrendous.
“It’s also the human factor. Those loved ones who have relatives in those care settings can’t visit right now. How horrendous is that; the knowledge that there might be an infection in your care home where your parent is or grandparent is, and you can’t even visit them right now.”
Care home bosses say their ‘overriding priority remains the health and safety of residents’
A spokeswoman for Hudson Healthcare said: “Our overriding priority remains the health and safety of our residents and staff and, in turn, we ensured to declare an outbreak in the home at the earliest possible opportunity.
“We can confirm that 10 residents and one member of staff have sadly passed away over the past week-and- a-half, of which three residents and the one staff member were tested positive for Covid-19.
“Whilst we are certain that the staff member’s passing was due to Covid-19, it remains unclear as to whether the passing of the three residents that tested positive was as a result of the virus. We would like to reiterate that whilst Covid-19 is a possible cause of death for some of the further seven cases, not all causes are known and we are continuing to work with GPs to assess this.
“A number of the residents that have sadly passed away have, in fact, been tested as negative.”
Three members of staff have claimed Hudson are failing to protect theirs and residents’ health during the crisis.
The company has strenuously rejected those allegations, saying it adhered to national safety guidance “every step of the way”.
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