The Health Minister has been criticised for a “lack of clarity and transparency” after he said that he didn’t know how many had died from coronavirus in care homes in Wales.
Vaughan Gething was responding to a question by Welsh Conservative AM Janet Finch-Saunders, the Shadow Minister for Social Care, who asked: “Will the Minister make a statement on how many residents have died as a result of coronavirus in care homes?”
In response Vaughan Gething AM said that he did “not currently have information on the number of care home residents who have contracted COVID-19 and have subsequently died or on the place of death.”
Janet Finch-Saunders said that she was concerned after a host of UK charities warned that older people risked being “airbrushed” out of coronavirus figures in the UK.
“Whilst I thank the Minister for his reply to my question, I am deeply concerned by the lack of clarity and transparency it offers during this period of great challenge to our social care sector,” she said.
“Instead of allowing for open and constructive dialogue on this matter of importance, the Minister continues to omit social care statistics from official updates. This is flatly unacceptable.
“It is not beyond the scope of the Minister for Social Services to have taken time to have collated valuable statistics from our seven health boards to ascertain to true impact of COVID-19 on those most at risk.
“The mark of a civilised society is how it cares for its oldest citizens. If we are to understand the impact of COVID-19 on our care homes in its entirety, we cannot allow official statistic updates to ignore those who are most vulnerable to this disease.”
Meanwhile a a social care leader has said that asking local councils to distribute the £40 million rescue package for care homes and home care companies is like putting a “fox in charge of the hen house”.
According to Care Forum Wales chair Mario Kreft MBE, the financial aid announced by Welsh Health Minister was “welcome” but it wasn’t enough and they are not confident it will all reach the front line with local government in charge.
The Welsh Government say the funding will help meet the increased costs of basic PPE, food, staffing costs and ICT, which are being incurred by adult social services.
It comes from the £1.1bn fighting fund created to support public services to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in Wales.
Mr Kreft said the emergency funding to tackle the coronavirus crisis should be administered centrally and be based on the number of a care home’s registered beds and the number of commissioned in domiciliary care.
To simplify the process there should be a supplementary amount paid per resident with a higher figure for those with more complex needs who required nursing care.
In addition, he also urged the Welsh Government fund an increase of care workers’ pay to at least £10 an hour as is happening in Devon.
Mr Kreft said: “We welcome the announcement by the Health Minister because it’s a step in the right direction but as ever the devil will be in the detail.
“As we see the coronavirus carnage rolling out, it is clear that we are going to need a lot more than £40 million. This is about saving as many lives as possible.
“If care homes are going to survive, we need a lot more than is being promised.
“The idea that this is anything more than a first instalment would be met with disbelief by a sector that’s on its knees as a result of 24 years of neglect.
“Councils haven’t even implemented this year’s fee increases – and in some places we don’t even know what the new rates are even though we are having to pay staff an extra 7.5 per cent in many cases.
“We also need assurances that domiciliary care is also going to be supported with a supplement based on to commissioned hours of support for vulnerable people living at home.
“We are hugely concerned about the decision to use the channels of local authorities to distribute this extra funding because of the track record of decision-making by the 22 Welsh locals authorities.
“Local government has some brilliant officers but there are very few councils that understand and support the private care sector.
“With a few honourable exceptions, we know from bitter experience over a generation that our treatment by local councils has at best been inconsistent and has at worst sought to damage the sector which was already in a terribly fragile state.
“We believe this announcement should have been made a month ago because, having seen what’s happening in Europe, it’s been clear that this tsunami is inexorably heading in our direction.
“We’re now looking anxiously over the border and we are already tragically seeing an alarming increase in the number of care home residents dying after contracting Covid-19. Sadly, we are already seeing deaths in Welsh care homes.”