Government guidelines, updated last month, say patients who test positive for Covid-19 could still be relocated to nursing homes.
There are currently 141 homes – 13% of Scotland’s total – battling coronavirus infections, according to figures released yesterday, with 2,156 residents having died since the pandemic began in March.
When asked to ensure that no Covid-19 positive patients were sent to care homes, Freeman admitted he was still allowed if it was “in the clinical best interests of the person. to shift”.
In response to a question from Monica Lennon of Labor, Freeman said: ‘The guidelines of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Health Protection indicate a presumption that anyone admitted to a care facility must test negative before being discharged. admission, unless it is in the individual’s clinical interest. be moved.
“This clinically driven decision is about exceptional circumstances and after a full risk assessment, consultation with the resident, family and nursing home on what is right for the individual and the implementation of mitigation and control measures. appropriate support.
Opposition politicians and families of nursing home residents reacted with anger and disbelief to Freeman’s statement.
Caroline Grattan, 56, believes the death of her mother, Margaret Johnston, from the coronavirus occurred because she was at greater risk of infected patients being transferred from the hospital to her care home.
Margaret, 88, died at Orchard Care Center in Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, in May after contracting Covid-19.
Caroline plans a lawsuit against the owners of the home, HC-One, over the belief that her mother was at greater risk due to her discharge from the hospital. Asked about fears that infected patients will still be transferred to homes, she said: “I can’t believe this. It’s disgusting. We will lose more people and the deaths will escalate. My mom and all the other deceased residents should still be there.
“My mother was fit and healthy until they sent patients from the hospital to nursing homes.
Caroline alerted law firm Leigh Day, which is investigating possible lawsuits against HC-One on behalf of the families of the victims.
In response, HC-One said they had “the greatest sympathy for the distress and loss that has been felt by so many people in recent months” and would refer any legal claims to their insurers.
Sonia Dixon, 37, whose 100-year-old great-grandmother Doreen Tilly is in a nursing home in Glenrothes, said: “I am really shocked and disgusted that this can still happen. It feels like no lesson has been learned and we are all making the same mistakes.
“I must have watched my grown-up deteriorate rapidly over the past eight months while only being allowed half an hour of outdoor visitation per week, which is totally unacceptable. Meanwhile, the government continues to allow people known to be infected with the coronavirus to be sent to nursing homes.
“I have no reason to believe this is happening with my older brother, but it is shocking to think that it could happen anywhere. It is shameful.
Lennon du Labor said: “This is an astonishing admission from the Secretary of Health.
“It’s hard to imagine what could be the clinical reason for sending someone with Covid-19 to a nursing home when we know how dangerous it can be for other residents.
“When you consider the heartache suffered by nursing home residents and their families who have been separated for eight months, it is shameful to think that the Scottish government could still knowingly allow infected patients to be sent to nursing homes.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron added: “This does not mean that the SNP health secretary cannot confirm that this controversial policy will not continue.
“Our care homes have been badly abandoned by the SNP during this pandemic, and ministers cannot allow this to happen again. Urgently, the Secretary of Health must confirm whether Covid-positive patients are still being sent to healthcare facilities, and also whether she will respect Parliament’s vote to hold an immediate public inquiry into the matter.
Scottish Greens health spokesperson Alison Johnstone said: “This policy could lead to more deaths and I would call on the Scottish government to urgently consider it.”
Cathie Russell, Care Home Residents Scotland Group, said: “We have been given absolute assurance that no one will be returned to a nursing home without having given two negative test results.
“I would be horrified if it were now the case that we send people known to be infected to nursing homes, given that families have now been locked out since March.
Deaths in nursing homes accounted for 42% of Covid-related deaths in Scotland. In October, a report from Health Protection Scotland found that dozens of patients who tested positive for Covid-19 had been transferred from Scottish hospitals to nursing homes.
Only 650 of the 3,599 elderly patients discharged from hospital in the period leading up to April 21 had been tested. Despite this, Premier Nicola Sturgeon insisted there was “no statistical evidence” that hospital discharges resulted in nursing home outbreaks.
Freeman released new guidelines on April 21 that anyone admitted to a nursing home should first have to give two negative test results. But the advice of health protection
Scotland released quietly on October 13 appears to have reintroduced a loophole.
He says: “The Cabinet Secretary’s statement of April 21 said the following groups should be reviewed – All Covid-19 patients in hospital who need to be admitted to a nursing home and all other residential admissions of care.
But he then adds: “The presumption should be that residents admitted to a care facility should undergo a PCR (Covid) test consented before or on admission, unless it is in the clinical interest of the person to be moved and that a risk assessment can support this; local health protection teams can advise you in more complex situations. “
Our report, two days before Freeman changed the testing rules, revealed leaked documents showing that staff at Newcarron Court in Falkirk had activated contingency plans to treat HIV-positive patients who were “highly likely ”to arrive from local hospitals. At the time, the owner of the home, Advinia Health Care, confirmed that she was helping hospitals with “capacity issues.”
Scottish government figures released yesterday revealed that nursing home outbreaks remained a huge problem in the second wave of the virus.
During the week of November 9 to 15, there were 296 new confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 among residents of health facilities, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 5,486 since March 9.
Dr Lewis Morrison, President of the British Medical Association Scotland, said: ‘The placement in a nursing home will be appropriate for these elderly patients, but it must be done in a Covid-safe manner and previous mistakes must not be repeated. ”
A Scottish government spokesperson said: ‘Any decision as to whether a patient is ready to leave hospital is a clinical decision, made by health and social service professionals alongside the patient and their family. Where they are best looked after if they need post-discharge care is based on an assessment of the individual’s needs and wants. “
Meanwhile, a care home yesterday said 20 of its residents had died within a month – considered the worst outbreak of the second wave. The death toll at the Caledonian Care home in Larbert, near Falkirk, first emerged on November 4 when six were confirmed to have died.
Operators Care UK said: “We are working closely with NHS Forth Valley and Falkirk Heath and Social Care Partnership to minimize the risk of new infections.”