The Wokingham Paper

‘The coronavirus is now being better controlled in care homes’

THE LATEST figures show that there have been 52 reported Covid-19 deaths in care homes across the borough, but the leader of the council is confident the virus is being better controlled with new measures.

Last week, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) had recorded more than 50 Covid-19-related deaths across the 53 residential and nursing homes in the borough.

And the leader of the borough council said he is more comforted in the control of the virus, due to the health care task force created.

“The taskforce initiative has now been copied across England and Wales,” said Cllr John Halsall. “The task force goes into care homes and makes sure that any problems that have existed are not recurring.

“We don’t have the authority to do this, we can only do this with the agreement of the care provider, working with them.

“Health care colleagues visit our care homes to assess and support their readiness to take and manage positive cases, and also to ensure they receive all the support they need.”

At the time of writing, the task force had visited 14 care homes.

Cllr Halsall added: “We are proposing to cover all 53 homes and all 162 care points in the borough.

“We are more comforted that the virus is being controlled now. But we are not on top of the problem of the virus yet. We don’t know a lot about it, and we are managing a situation that hasn’t happened before.”

Cllr Lindsay Ferris, leader of the Wokingham Liberal Democrats praised the local task force response, but condemned the Government for “a lack of coordinated thought” when managing the coronavirus in care homes.

He said: “They didn’t think of the consequences of moving people out of hospital and into care homes without testing. Care homes have not had priority from the beginning and there has been a lack of acknowledgement from Matt Hancock — he is an utter disgrace.”

And Cllr Clive Jones, deputy leader of the Wokingham Liberal Democrats added: “ONS statistics have revealed more than 44,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the UK. Of these, 9,980 Covid-19-related deaths took place in care homes in England and Wales. There are 52 deaths registered in Wokingham related to Covid19.

“Deaths in care homes are being understated. I am sure that deaths in care homes in the UK are at least 20,000.”
When the Government announced the plan to discharge hospital patients into care homes without testing, MPs across the borough lobbied for the decision to be re-thought. But these calls were ignored for a number of weeks.

Cllr Jones added: “The Government has failed to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society from coronavirus.

“For ministers to now try and claim they put a ‘protective ring’ around care homes is not only false, but will be regarded by many as an only adding further insult to all those grieving the loss of a loved one.

“Government ministers must now be frank with the British public. They must not only explain how this was allowed to happen under their watch, but how they are going to ensure that we step up the level of protective equipment as well as the system to test, trace and isolate so that they can get a grip on the crisis and prevent further deaths.”

But Cllr Halsall praised the borough council staff and the voluntary sector in their coordinated response to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions at a local level.

“We had planned for the pandemic in the sense that the borough council could click into gear almost immediately in the response, as could the voluntary sector,” he said.

“We plan for all sorts of risks, but having said that, every emergency has its own uniqueness. And these unique things hadn’t been considered.

“We didn’t have a big pile of PPE, but should we have done?

“We couldn’t have anticipated the virus would be transmitted in the way it has been. We can’t cover every eventuality and be right all the time.”

And the borough council has now published a report on the Covid-19 situation across the borough.

“What we’re trying to do here is to put the facts out and tell people as much as we possibly can,” explained Cllr Halsall.

“It seems the right thing to do to get the information out there.

“I don’t know of other authorities doing this.”

The report includes data from Wokingham borough and the five other local authorities in Berkshire.

It shows that Wokingham comes in second for the number of Covid-19-related deaths in care homes, despite having the largest number of care homes in Berkshire.

West Berkshire had most recorded Covid-19-related deaths, at 54 in their 46 care homes. And Bracknell Forest had the fewest, with four recorded Covid-19-related deaths in their 14 care homes.

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