‘I don’t sleep’ – Manager says care homes ‘are being forgotten’ in coronavirus crisis
The manager of an Ipswich care home has laid bare the challenges facing the industry in Suffolk and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nicola Rowland, who runs Park Manor in Tuddenham Road, said she does not sleep at night as she is constantly trying to think of ways of protecting people in the home from Covid-19.
There are currently no cases within the 21-bed facility, but the team has tripled their spend on personal protective equipment (PPE) in the past week to keep staff safe.
MORE: People urged to still contact GPs during coronavirus crisis
Her comments come amid reports of dozens of deaths of residents at care homes across the UK, some of whom had tested positive for Covid-19.
Aside from a one-off delivery of face masks from the government, Mrs Rowland said her home is no longer getting any supplies of protective equipment like gloves, aprons and masks.
She is now spending hours online searching for PPE but said the prices had gone “sky high”.
“It’s challenging. I don’t sleep. I am constantly trying to think of ways that I could protect everybody,” she said.
“We don’t have coronavirus in our home, we are very lucky. But there’s also the stress – staff are worried about getting it, residents are also worried.
“We’re a small care home, but our outgoings (on PPE) have tripled in a week.”
MORE: Stay at home over Easter - Suffolk councils and emergency services unite in lockdown warning
Suffolk County Council received a delivery of PPE from the government on Wednesday with stock urgently being sent out to the care sector.
A spokesman said the authority is prioritising appropriate protection for frontline staff to minimise the spread of the virus.
Mrs Rowland said stocking food has also been an issue – the home has a wholesale supplier, but also gets food from a superstore – and with delivery slots booked up, it is becoming increasingly difficult to feed 21 vulnerable people.
“It’s been impossible - but it’s slowly improving,” she added.
“When I’ve approached superstores one of the responses I got was ‘we haven’t been directed by the government to prioritise care homes’, which was very unhelpful, I’ve got to feed 21 vulnerable people.
“The government has been very open and honest about the NHS and everything else, but the care home sector is massive.
“There are more people living in care homes than there are in hospital.
“We should also be getting PPE from the government. The care industry was already at its knees anyway, and this has just made it 10 times worse.
“We have support groups, and we talk through them, they’ve been very helpful. We get emails from Suffolk County Council with guidance and everything else, where we can get stock, if they have stock. They are trying to source local suppliers and we now have a list.
“It feels like care homes have just been forgotten.”
Like other homes around the UK, the team is also facing difficult conversations with families about their loved ones, with councils encouraging homes to draw up end-of-life plans for residents.
New guidance issued on Wednesday means residents with suspected Covid-19 will be triaged in the home itself.
MORE: ‘Calm before the storm’ at our hospitals as NHS staff prepare for coronavirus peak
“If someone gets Covid-19 in the home, you’d isolate, introduce infection control, contact the GP but GPs won’t visit in person,” Mrs Rowland added.
“District nurses would come in, to give you advice and help, but that’s as far as it goes and it’s left to the care home to manage it.
“When you’re trying to control infection, you don’t want the people nursing them to go to the well people.
“However, you’ve also got a depleted staff, because your staff are off with it, but then you’re trying to manage looking after people that are well and those that have Covid-19 with a depleted staff. It’s extreme pressure.
“I do appreciate the NHS have a lot of staff off and they’re on the frontline, but so are we if we get it in a home.”
The Department of Health says it has delivered 7.8 million PPE products to more than 26,000 care settings across the country and is rapidly working to extend testing to social care workers.
How is Suffolk County Council supporting care homes?
Bosses at the county council say they have changed the way they pay care providers to make sure they can still operate during the coronavirus crisis – and more financial measures will be announced after the bank holiday.
The authority has obtained extra capacity by buying more beds in care homes and the council’s own Home First service is preparing for increased demand and sickness levels by moving staff over from adult community services.
Chiefs said they recognise the supply of PPE is an ongoing issue, adding they have “lobbied tirelessly” to ensure care providers are prioritised like other health workers.
MORE: 19 firms trading during coronavirus lockdown told to close
This week, 65 care homes have been provided with emergency PPE.
Rebecca Hopfensperger, responsible for adult care, said: “Our carers are our hidden heroes who are continuing to take care of our most vulnerable even when the risks are high for themselves.
“Myself and my colleagues at the council are working hard to ensure we do right by these incredible people.
“We have successfully lobbied for more supplies of much needed PPE and will continue to do so as the pandemic continues.”
A spokesman added: “The county council has re-enforced with our providers that individual care plans, which may include any end of life planning, should continue to be reviewed and updated as normal.”
• Are you from a business which could help supply PPE? Email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ipswich Star. Click the link in the yellow box below for details.