‘Very worrying’ – Data reveals more than half of Hertfordshire’s COVID–19 deaths are care home residents
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One concerned councillor has described the situation as “very worrying”, as statistics prove more than half of Hertfordshire’s recorded COVID-19 hospital deaths have been care home residents.
Data obtained from the county council, which recorded deaths from March 20 to April 17, is the strongest indication yet of the prevalence of the virus in the county’s care home sector.
In total, 172 of the recorded or presumed COVID–19 hospital deaths have been care home residents, or 67 per cent of the county’s total coronavirus deaths.
That means care home residents will account for the majority of the 254 COVID-19 hospital deaths that have been recorded in Hertfordshire.
Cllr Richard Roberts, executive member for adult care services, says he is “very worried” by the levels of the virus in the county’s care homes, which are predominantly run by the private sector.
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He points to the dedication of “highly skilled” and “competent” care home staff, who he says have really “stepped up to the plate”.
But he says there needs to be a conversation – involving care homes, the county council and the NHS – about how care home residents can be best protected in the long term.
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“It’s a sad fact that our care home residents are the most vulnerable – because of their age and some of the physical complexities of their health.
“My heartfelt sympathies go to all families who are losing loved ones in care homes and who can’t be with them.”
Cllr Roberts stresses staff caring for Hertforshire’s 8000 care home residents are giving the “best possible care” – even helping families to communicate with residents by video link.
But with no vaccine or treatment for the virus imminent, Cllr Roberts says there now needs to be a conversation about the best care and prevention for the future.
“The coronavirus isn’t going away any time soon, because there is no vaccine and no treatment,” he said.
“We have to explore every possible way to protect residents and staff.”
In a bid to protect residents and staff, the county council has already worked with care homes to find ways to separate residents with COVID-19, where possible in different wings or floors.
They have also taken steps to ensure staff have access to personal protection equipment, including masks, gowns and gloves.
“PPE is, in a sense, part of the contract we have with care staff,” said Cllr Roberts.
“We will do everything to look after them, because they are doing everything to look after our residents.”
Meanwhile Cllr Roberts also points to the steps the county council took in advance of the outbreak to support the NHS.
He says the council ensured there were an additional 600 care home places available in the community – including the re-opening of two care homes that had previously closed, with plans for two more.
Since the start of the outbreak the county council has helped with the recruitment of an additional 150 carers – to cover for staff absence.