Some nursing home workers who test positive for coronavirus may need to continue working, according to new official guidelines.
The guidelines state that infected personnel should continue with their work, otherwise it would create an “unacceptable risk”.
But that should only be for the “absolute minimum period” needed – no more than the end of their shift.
And he points out that infected staff should only work with residents who are also known to have the virus.
Almost half of all coronavirus deaths in Scotland have taken place in nursing homes, with eight staff and more than 1,400 residents deceased to date.
The latest Health Protection Scotland directive was released a week after the draft directive was mistakenly published on the Scottish government’s website without having been approved by the ministers.
He indicates that some homes may face “inevitable delays” in replacing staff who test positive for Covid-19, which could “create an unacceptable risk to the safety of care provided”.
He adds: “If such a situation should arise, any staff member who had to continue working should do so only for the absolute minimum period (for example to complete a shift) while waiting for his replacement. “
The guidelines state that infected personnel must continue to wear appropriate protective equipment and must maintain an “appropriate social distance” when their mask is removed.
They should also eat and drink in a separate room – alone or with other infected employees.
And the guidelines go on to say that infected personnel should “avoid unnecessary casual contact and observe appropriate social distancing when returning home, avoiding if possible or limiting the use of public transport.”
Speaking at her daily briefing, Premier Nicola Sturgeon said advice should only be followed “in extremis” and for “a very short time”, and urged nursing homes to develop plans for urgently to prevent infected staff from continuing to work.
She said, “This is to ensure that a nursing home is not left, even for a short time, without the right level of coverage, as this would also pose a danger to residents of the home.
“It is not about taking unacceptable risks with people with the virus. “
Sturgeon also insisted that infected staff would not provide direct clinical care to a resident – despite indications that they can “work with residents already known to be infected themselves”.
“Insulate in a room”
Chief Nursing Officer Fiona McQueen said she hopes infected staff can be replaced during their shift in “minutes and hours”, and that this would only apply to staff in a relatively small number of roles specific, such as registered nurses.
She said: “If you are a registered nurse and you are in charge of this shift for 12 hours in a nursing home which can be 16 km from anywhere and you have an SMS or a call telling you that you are positive, so this nurse cannot just get out of the nursing home.
“What I would expect them to do is go and isolate themselves in a room until they have relief. “
The new guidelines also set out rules for admitting patients to nursing homes during the pandemic, as well as policies for testing staff and residents.