Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has called for Jeane Freeman to “come clean” over the scale of discharging untested hospital patients into care homes.
Delayed discharge figures from the Scottish Government on Wednesday revealed that 921 patients were released from hospitals into care homes in March – the first month of the coronavirus crisis.
But it was not until April 21 that a policy for mandatory testing of all new care home residents was announced by the Scottish Government.
Mr Leonard has now raised concerns over the figures when the Health Secretary previously gave assurances that the majority of those untested patients were sent to their own homes.
He said: “This new information is deeply disturbing and Jeane Freeman has serious questions to answer as to why she claimed that the vast majority of untested discharged patients were sent to their own homes.
“Delayed discharge has been a challenge for the NHS for some time and questions need to be asked about the Scottish Government’s approach to discharging untested patients into care homes to free up beds.
“We cannot have the safety of patients, staff and residents imperilled by an ill-advised and dangerous rush to end delayed discharge.
“The impact of coronavirus in Scotland’s care homes has been little short of horrifying and it is clear that discharging infected patients to care homes has played a key role in fanning the flames of this virus.
“The Cabinet secretary owes it to the people of Scotland and the families of the residents and staff affected to come clean over the failure of the Government to protect the most vulnerable.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also defended the decision on Friday, admitting she still “agonises” over previous steps she has taken during the crisis.
Her comments came after former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson also criticised the decision to “put people that may or may not be infected into an enclosed environment of incredibly vulnerable people”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “There is widespread public endorsement for the approach that we are taking in Scotland and ministers are focused on mitigating the effects of what is an unprecedented global pandemic, and making decisions on the best information available.
“The Health Secretary has issued a letter to make clear that the delayed discharge numbers quoted on April 15 was an error, and apologised for this.
“The Scottish Government has brought forward a number of actions to help keep care home residents and care workers safe and will continue to focus our efforts and attention on that.”