No-one could have been more surprised than we were when, last week, news emerged of plans to release COVID-positive patients from hospitals back into care homes once again – possibly as soon as this week.
The plans came to light after a letter from a council was shared with national news broadcasters. In it, the local authority was seeking a response from each of its regional care homes, as to whether they were prepared to accept COVID-positive individuals on discharge from hospital, asking them to reply with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ by no later than last Friday.
There is little doubt that this development will have caused alarm both among care home owners and employees, as well as residents and their families, all of whom are only just recovering from the worry and stress of the initial COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in March.
As we all know, people who live in care homes are among the nation’s most vulnerable, because of their age and the underlying conditions they are often suffering from.
It’s now widely acknowledged that thousands of lives were lost during the first wave of the pandemic, in the Spring, as a result of COVID-positive residents being sent from stays in hospital – where many of them caught the virus – back to their care settings.
Most of us will remember highly emotive scenes from Spring news reports, where care home workers shared tales of heartache and described how they were struggling to cope amidst what became a pandemic-within-a-pandemic, centred on these facilities. There were even heroic examples of carers moving away from their families and into care homes for months at a time, to avoid bringing dangerous outside germs in with them. Many care home residents haven’t seen their loved ones for months, as a result, because homes have banned visitors as another bid to keep them safe and avoid spreading the virus.
There is a hope that, now, the virus COVID-19 will pose less of a risk than it did back then, though only time will tell.
While we still don’t know enough about COVID, we know more about it than we did back in March. This includes a better understanding among healthcare professionals of how to treat patients with the virus, to limit the amount of damage it causes, and how to control the spread of infection. And, while a vaccine has yet to be nailed, we have discovered a number of additional treatments – including the steroid dexamethasone – which can slow down COVID’s progression in sufferers.
The biggie, though, is testing. While controversy continues to rage about the availability and reach of the COVID testing programme in general, a system is now in place to ensure that patients are routinely tested on discharge from hospital, which means that care homes at least know what they’re dealing with and can take the necessary steps to segregate positive residents from the rest of their home community.
Not only that, but homes also struggled to source the necessary equipment for the fight against COVID in the Spring, as vital supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser were critically short, and what was available was diverted to the National Health Service. While there are still intermittent shortages of certain items, the situation is nowhere near as bad as it was. Through our extensive network of supplier contacts, we’ve worked tirelessly in the intervening months to source plentiful supplies of critical items, and we’re also watchful when it comes to identifying where the next pressure point might be, and taking proactive steps to avoid problems.
What else can care homes do?
We count numerous care homes among our clients and have huge admiration for the tireless efforts they’ve made, over recent months, to put protective measures in place.
However, as we outlined in another recent blog, now is the time for them to step back and take a long, hard look at their preparations, particularly in light of this recent news, just to make doubly sure.
We give a number of hints, tips and steps they can take to ensure readiness, which include looking at their supplies of key items like PPE, and ensuring they have sufficient stocks and a regular order system in place. Our recent brochure provides an idea of the kinds of products which are most useful to care homes in the fight against COVID-19.
If you own or work for a residential home – or indeed a community care provider – and need some advice about the issues outlined above and how to stave off potential problems, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via 01482 327580 or firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be delighted to take a strategic look at your plans for the winter months and help you plug any potential gaps.