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Coronavirus / Care home was ‘absolutely in line with guidance’ when Covid-19 outbreak struck

The Wastview care home in Walls. Photo: Shetland News

NHS SHETLAND’s public health director says operations were “absolutely in line with guidance at the time” when an outbreak of Covid-19 struck in a Westside care home.

Susan Webb was responding to a question from Lerwick councillor Stephen Leask during a virtual meeting of Shetland’s health and social care partnership on Thursday in which he asked whether actions were “reactive rather than proactive”.

The integration board held a virtual meeting on Thursday where members were given an update on the response to Covid-19 in relation to Shetland’s care homes.

Five out of the seven Covid-19 deaths registered in Shetland were in care home settings.

A total of 63 staff members and residents were tested at the council-run Wastview recently after an outbreak of the virus was associated with a number of deaths at the home. All tests came back negative.

A report presented by NHS Shetland’s director of public health Susan Webb said that care homes had been managing the situation well.

She told Thursday’s meeting that a review of care home practice in the isles undertaken after more stringent measures were imposed by the Scottish Government raised no concerns.

Online training of care home staff on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is due to be completed by the end of August.

“We are on track with that,” Webb confirmed.

In relation to the outbreak, the public health director said the situation was being managed, with no new areas of concern.

Webb confirmed that residents in the care home were subject to “enhanced monitoring”.

Leask questioned the timescales of the response to Covid-19 and care homes.

“Are we happy and are we comfortable with the response…before we start patting one another on the back?” he asked.

“Was it reactive rather than proactive?”

Webb reassured Leask that activities at the affected care home were “absolutely in line with guidance at the time” – although the guidelines have changed since.

“Clearly what we have done is review all the actions that we have taken,” she added. “We are learning from those and putting them in place.”

Webb added that infection control visits to Shetland’s nine care homes in April were carried out far in advance of guidance.

“I believe we have a positive picture to tell,” she said. “But there are things we do need to do differently.”

Leask said afterwards that he wanted to “pay tribute to the hard work” of staff and their response to the Covid-19 crisis.

The meeting, meanwhile, heard that the close integration of local health and social care services has meant Shetland is in a “very, very positive” situation regarding care homes and Covid-19.

IJB chief officer Jo Robinson said the close integration in Shetland had enabled staff to move on quickly from the outbreak earlier in the pandemic.

Shetland Islands Council’s chief social work officer Denise Morgan said the isles “already have an integrated system in place” which has supported the response to Covid-19.

“I think we are in a fairly good position in Shetland compared with some other areas,” she said.

Board chair Emma Macdonald said that care home staff have faced a “really difficult” time in the last few months.

Senior nurse Edna Mary Watson also confirmed that district nurses were now on hand to help out on the ground at care homes to support staff.

Morgan, meanwhile, said there was also greater counselling support available for staff.