North-east nursing home bosses today said care staff are being treated like “cannon fodder” and “the poor relatives” – and pleaded for more protective equipment to help them continue to work safely.
Robert Kilgour, founder of Renaissance Care which runs five homes in the north-east, fears staff are being treated like “second-class carers” by the government.
Judith Munro, owner of Badenscoth House Nursing Home in Rothienorman, where there are five residents suspected of suffering from Covid-19, said they will run out of PPE equipment such as face masks in just two days.
Their plea came after a carer from West Dunbartonshire died after contacting coronavirus.
Robert said: “There is a growing feeling in the social care sector that it is under-appreciated by all governments – local, regional and national – and even that care home staff are being treated as ‘cannon fodder’ and ‘second class carers’ by many branches of government.”
Mr Kilgour said there had been a “huge increase” in the cost of PPE and increasing delays in delivery, especially for face masks. There had also been examples of equipment ordered by care homes being diverted to the NHS.
“The impact on the morale of care staff of PPE shortages and the increasing number of residents with Covid-19 symptoms in care homes has been massive,” he said.
“Our brave and hard-working care staff deserve and need our full support and appreciation.
“I am calling on the UK Government and Scottish Government for more money. It is a cry for help.”
At Badenscoth House, Judith has lost 12 members of staff due to the pandemic, with three self-isolating due to showing symptoms and nine off indefinitely due to having underlying health conditions.
That means the current carers she does have are being stretched thinly.
Five residents at the home are also in isolation after showing symptoms of Covid-19, with these cases being reported to NHS Grampian. They need specialised barrier nursing, which means the staff are going through a lot of PPE causing a shortage.
Now Judith feels their sector is being ignored by the Scottish Government and has called on them to offer more help, including PPE and a way for her carers to get tested so they can return to work and not leave them short-staffed.
She said: “I feel like the care sector is being categorised as the poor relative to the NHS.
“All my staff are working on the frontline as well and need some degree of help and support, as does most of the care sector. We are being very cautious in the way we approach work now and extra PPE is something that should give us relief.
“We’ve currently not got enough to last us two days which is very worrying for all the staff members.”
In order to treat the isolated patients, staff members must dress in full PPE gear, double gloves and face masks when entering the room and then take them off and bin them safely before leaving.
Due to the nature of the job, each resident is tended to frequently, meaning PPE is dwindling quickly.
Badenscoth House recently got 150 face masks from NHS Grampian but stocks are running low.
Judith added: “Our issue is keeping everybody well and cared for and everyone is working as hard as they can to do this.
“The staff are dedicating themselves to the job and working much longer hours to make sure everyone is fine. If we could test our staff it would be a massive help, as then some who are isolating could find out whether they could come back to work.”
Renaissance Care runs 15 care homes across Scotland. It operates Cowdray Club Care Home in Fonthill, Jesmond Care Home in Bridge of Don, Persley Castle Care Home in Bucksburn and the Torry Care Home in Aberdeen. It also runs Wyndwell Care Home in Peterhead.
MSP for Aberdeenshire West Alexander Burnett urged the Scottish Government to act quickly after he was contacted by a constituent who has a brother in Badenscoth Nursing Home.
He said: “I’m extremely concerned at the situation at Badenscoth Nursing Home and the lack of help being given to the facility during this very worrying time.
“There are five suspected cases of coronavirus at Badenscoth and this can’t be ignored by the Scottish Government.
“A lack of PPE is being supplied and the nursing home is now short staffed because some have had to self-isolate – it’s paramount more help is given.
“The most vulnerable should never face being bottom of the pile which is why I’m calling on Jeane Freeman and the Scottish Government to take urgent action on this alarming situation.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We attach the highest priority to the protection of our frontline social care and healthcare workers, and have introduced four direct supply lines for PPE, a streamlined ordering system for all staff who need PPE and a new dedicated email address for any social care or healthcare worker who has any concerns about PPE supply to make contact with us immediately.
“We have adequate supplies of PPE in place and our new supply line measures are ensuring the right equipment reaches the right locations with the highest possible urgency.”