Posted: Wed 6th May 2020

COVID-19 testing: Care Forum Wales boss unimpressed by ‘concentrate on basic hygiene’ comments from Health Minister

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

A care homes industry spokesman has criticised comments from a Welsh minister suggesting hand washing and wearing PPE properly is more important than testing care home residents and staff for Covid-19.

Health minister Vaughan Gething (top left) was giving Welsh Government’s daily briefing and explaining why Wales had not mirrored England’s policy of offering testing to all care home residents, even if they don’t show signs of the coronavirus strain.

Currently, those living or working in a care home will be tested if someone in their residence shows signs of Covid-19, or they are a service user being moved into a care home.

Previously Welsh Government was only testing “up to five residents” in any one home if they showed symptoms, then designating the whole establishment as a “red”, or infected, zone.

The current policy was adopted three days ago despite First Minister Mark Drakeford saying clinical evidence showed there was “no value” in testing everyone.

Older People’s Commissioner Helena Herklots has already criticised the testing criteria saying rules should be changed in line with England as a “matter of urgency”.

When asked why scientists would not want more data on care home infection rates, Mr Gething said: “If you are going to test people at one point in time it doesn’t tell you where they will be tomorrow or in three or four day’s time.

“Equally it doesn’t tell you about the measures that you understand have a much more significant impact on keeping people safe.

“We are talking about basic hygiene. We are talking about people using PPE correctly as well.

“It’s important not to get to the position where testing is the only thing that people need to be concerned about.”

Mario Kreft MBE, (top right) chairman of Care Forum Wales, responded by saying: “Other countries, where a more rigorous approach has been adopted to testing, have been far more effective in containing this virus.

“They have got it right and we should be learning lessons from them.

“We have been emphasising the importance of testing in care homes since February, so we are not being wise after the event.

“It is also really not right that care homes in Wales have had to buy their own PPE, often at eye-watering prices.

“In normal times care homes are very safe places with excellent standards in terms of hygiene.

“They are highly experienced at infection control but what we have here is an invisible enemy, a viruslike no other that is so easily transmitted.”

Mr Gething added Welsh Government was using testing “appropriately” and care homes needed to be supported to make sure they have the “best possible environment in which to care for people”.

He continued by saying all care home staff should understand “the key importance of how they conduct themselves”.

He said basic hygiene measures made a “huge difference to people’s outcomes”.

Mr Kreft said: “Unfortunately, the efforts of the governments in Westminster and Wales were focused almost exclusively on the NHS and social care was at the back of the queue.

“It was clear from the outset that the 430,000 people in UK care homes and the 20,000 residents in Welsh care home were not the key priority.”

One senior assistant from a privately run care home in Flintshire – who wished to remain anonymous –  has contacted on several occasions with concerns over the testing regime in Wales, compared to that of England.

On Tuesday management at the care home were told by Public Health Wales that even though they have a resident who has tested positive for COVID-19 there was ‘not enough capacity’ to test the rest of the residents or any of the staff. 
A list of all residents was sent to health officials but managers were told tests will be sent “once they have the capacity.”

Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter /

[Vaughan Getting image: C4)

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