Diagrama Foundation Chief Executive has spoken out about inadequacies with Government guidance on Covid-19 prevention which he believes is putting residents’ lives at risk.
As the stark number of care home deaths has come to light in recent days, David Romero McGuire PhD, said the charity has been forced to take its own measures over and above Government guidance to keep residents safe. The charity has introduced advanced protocols to protect residents from COVID-19 because he believes the advice being given ‘is simply nowhere near good enough’ to prevent the disease coming into care homes.
Diagrama runs six residential services, which care for around 70 vulnerable residents - many with underlying health, nursing and dementia care needs.
To date, staff at four of the services have been instructed to take additional measures such as changing their clothes or wearing clean scrubs on shift, disinfecting footwear and wearing surgical masks at all times, after taking advice from colleagues at Diagrama care facilities in Spain.
The charity is part of a global organisation which manages hundreds of residential services. Spanish colleagues, further ahead in the coronavirus pandemic and with the benefit of hindsight, have been sharing measures needed to protect residents’ lives as the outbreak has developed.
With more than 50% of care homes already thought to have been affected so far in the UK, as of April 17 there are no known cases of COVID-19 at Edensor Care Centre.
Dr McGuire says this is testament to the additional measures they have taken but warns against complacency.
He said: “We have done everything possible within our power and resources to keep our residents protected but we know nothing is guaranteed. We have to take every day as it comes. Our staff have had to shoulder the unimaginable burden knowing that if the virus does enter the home, there is a high chance it will have come from them. That is why we have been asking our staff to take these extra measures. The advice from the Government has simply not been good enough to protect vulnerable residents effectively.
“We know we are asking a lot of our staff – at first we didn't have enough masks to change them every day so we were spraying our masks with a disinfecting alcohol solution in between shifts and then replacing them every few days. Some are scared of what might happen – understandably so. Others are angry that better equipment is not available.
“But on the whole, we have been overwhelmed by the support from our team who have been extremely supportive of our actions, of these additional demands on them. They know we need to do this for the sake of our residents.
“Our team also know that if a resident does get the virus we will follow barrier nursing procedures to the letter – meaning masks must be disposed of after every use. It is because of this that we are having to store a small amount of PPE for that awful eventuality - as we cannot guarantee we will receive it from official supplies in time for it to be useful.
“The families of our residents have also been extremely patient and understanding during this difficult time.”
Diagrama has been in regular contact with the Care Quality Commission and local authorities who have been supportive of all the measures taken. In the latest CQC inspection earlier this year Edensor was singled out for its outstanding approach to care.
Additional measures taken by Diagrama to prevent COVID-19 coming into the residential services:
- Homes closed to non-essential visitors on March 12 – more than a week ahead of the official Government lockdown.
- Diagrama has funded own surgical masks, FFP2 masks, visors and scrubs to reduce the risk of staff unknowingly bringing in the virus from outside.
- Strict protocols have been introduced on mask wearing, meal times and cleaning procedures.
- Staff wear scrubs or a change of clothes while on shift, which are laundered on the premises ready for the next day’s shift. Diagrama has so far been unable to source enough for all staff.
- Admission protocol has been altered – no new residents accepted without a negative COVID-19 test result
- Residents at the charity's nursing and dementia care home in Clacton-on-Sea have been isolated to separate floors to reduce cross-contamination risk, with many vulnerable residents encouraged to stay in their own rooms to further shield them
Dr McGuire added: “The supplies we have received from Public Health England have been sparse – 1 protective suit for the whole home. We believe they are holding back their supplies until a case is confirmed but in the meantime we have to buy what we can ourselves and stretch our resources out to protect residents as best we can. Something has got to be better than nothing.”
Diagrama has now launched a fundraising appeal to help cover rising costs of PPE. You can support the appeal by donating via https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/SaveliveswithPPE
David is available for radio and television interviews and can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org