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Care Home Staff Describe Themselves as 'Cannon Fodder' for COVID-19

UK - The UK’s care homes are at “breaking point” according to a Guardian report, with 1 in 5 coronavirus deaths outside of hospitals occurring in care homes, hospices, domestic homes and other locations according to the Office of National Statistics.

Confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 have been found in more than half of the facilities of MHA, the UK’s biggest charitable provider. Over its 220 facilities, 10% of staff are off work and cases are rising.

The coronavirus death toll in care homes has been unclear, as the Public Health England daily figures only detail NHS hospital fatalities. Confirmed hospital deaths was 1,789 on Tuesday, rising by 381 cases.

Despite ongoing contact with confirmed or potential Covid-19 sufferers, care homes are not included in the testing being rolled out by the NHS. Staff also complain of a lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

One care assistant in a 20-person care home told the Guardian that staff had been scared after doctors asked each resident if they would prefer to stay in the home if they contracted the virus, and they all wanted to stay.

“We have thermometers, that’s it,” she said “How do we contain it in a home. We have people with dementia and we can’t keep them in their rooms. All we have for PPE is the generic paper mask, gloves and plastic aprons. We are risking our lives. It makes us feel like cannon fodder”.

Another carer at a home in Edinburgh was reduced to tears when he realized staff caring for a Covid-19 patient were also looking after another resident, and staff were coming and going from the infected person’s area. He described staff as “a bundle of nerves”.

Unison leader Dave Prentis says workers feel like they have been “forgotten – their safety a mere afterthought, despite the critical work they do.” Unlike NHS staff, care home workers have not been given standing ovations in the streets.

A survey of 10 care homes in Barking, East London found that 8 were experiencing equipment shortages, particularly goggles. Unison also reports that managers are unsure of protocols, are not issuing hand sanitizer, face masks or training on how to use them. Some staff have resorted to borrowing protective goggles from local schools.

Care workers are being asked to work even if they have underlying health issues, and to bring their children in to work if they cannot arrange childcare. In addition, some staff have reported abuse from members of the public when trying to bulk-buy in supermarkets to feed residents.

The care home sector houses 400,000 of the UK’s most elderly and vulnerable people. Unison has urged Boris Johnson to intervene and end shortages of PPE.

Sadly this comes at the same time the UK reports the 1st Social Worker death due to Covid-19

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