Care homes

Australian Care Home Residents May Have Died From Neglect After Staff Were Furloughed

St. Basil’s Home for the Age in Melbourne has faced an inquiry to answer why 50 residents of the care home died between July and August 2020. It has been uncovered that the existing staff were furloughed, meaning that the facility could not provide enough personnel to adequately look after the residents, leading to severe cases of neglect, with one resident left unable to speak due to dehydration. The Australian Associated Press has the story.

In an opening statement counsel assisting Peter Rozen QC said staff at the home were deemed ‘close contacts’ and furloughed on July 22nd, with the Commonwealth taking over the home despite multiple warnings that regular staff should not be replaced.

He said one doctor involved in the response, Dr. Rabin Sinnappu, warned that furloughing St. Basil’s staff would result in disaster, while another doctor described it as a “shocking” idea.

Rozen said a lack of care for residents had become apparent by the end of the first day of the takeover, after the Federal Health Department could not find enough new staff.

“There were far too few of these workers at St. Basil’s for them to have provided care at the level the residents deserved and the law required,” he said.

The court heard that by July 23rd, pathology staff visiting to test residents found the conditions “shocking to say the least”.

The Medical Director of Melbourne Pathology, Dr. Ellen Maxwell, alerted the Victorian Health Department in an email that Covid-positive residents were mixing freely with others, bins were overflowing, PPE had not been cleared and medication was on the floor.

She said one staff member was in tears, appalled that a patient who had died was wheeled out of the home with no attempt to clear the corridor of people.

The first witness at the inquest was Christine Golding whose mother Efraxia, 84, caught the virus at the home.

She testified that St. Basil’s had provided good, culturally appropriate care for her mother, but during the outbreak her mother’s treatment was inhumane and degrading.

Although Efraxia could not feed herself, several trays of food were found left in her room, and at one point she was no longer able to talk due to dehydration and lack of food, Golding said.

She recalled the facility manager warning that if staff were furloughed, people would die from neglect rather than Covid.

“That sent a shiver up my spine,” she told the hearing.

During the outbreak a group of residents’ families met outside the home, and when staff would not tell them who was in charge, they began banging on the windows until the police were called, she said.

“It was a state of chaos and desperation… the anger was driven by fear,” she said.

“Australians deserve to know why our aged care Covid preparedness was so poor, why it spectacularly failed my mother and contributed to her premature death.”

Rozen said the inquest would not lay blame on the workers brought in to care for St. Basil’s residents, saying the evidence would show a number of them went “above and beyond”, but the circumstances were impossible.

He also explained that an expert report would show the delay between the notification of the first Covid case at the home on July 9th, and test results becoming available on July 17th, was a root cause of the failure to contain the outbreak, as was a lack of co-ordination between state and federal health departments.

45 residents died from Covid, but the inquest is also covering five other deaths at the home during the same period.

Worth reading in full.

Mandatory Vaccination Will Cause One in 10 Care Workers to Lose Their Jobs

The Government is set to introduce a mandatory vaccination requirement for all care home staff this Thursday, with one in 10 employees facing the sack because they haven’t received both doses of a Covid vaccine. In addition, the General Secretary of Unison, a trade union which represents public sector workers, has called on the Government to scrap the vaccine mandate as it will “cause more harm than good”. The Times has the story.

The Government’s policy requiring all care home staff to have had two doses of the vaccine comes into force on Thursday, and the Care Quality Commission said it would take action if necessary to ensure people’s safety.

Social care experts warned that the measure was likely to exacerbate existing staff shortages, leaving people without the care they needed, and one of the biggest trade unions urged the Government to reconsider its position.

In 76 out of 151 upper-tier local authorities in England, more than 10% of staff in care homes for older adults were not fully vaccinated, according to NHS England statistics up to the end of last month.

Nationally, 89.4% of the almost 462,000 staff working in older adult care homes were double-jabbed.

The lowest rates were in Thurrock, Essex, and Manchester, where only 79.1% and 79.4% of staff were double-jabbed. The highest rates were in York, where 94.8% of staff were double-vaccinated, and Rutland, where the figure was 95.6%.

Some of those who are unvaccinated will have medical exemptions, whereas others may not have recorded their vaccination properly.

Simon Bottery, the Senior Fellow in Social Care at the King’s Fund think tank, said the sector would lose workers, with the only question being how many. The Government’s own estimate is that about 40,000 staff could leave as a result of the policy.

Bottery said: “In the last full year for which we’ve got statistics, there were over 100,000 vacancies at any one time. We also know that although the vacancies fell in the initial stages of the pandemic, they’ve since been increasing, and they’re now almost certainly higher than they were before the pandemic started.

“There’s a chronic problem with recruiting into adult social care, and that problem is becoming really acute. And the moment the sector loses a significant number of staff on top of the existing problem, then it creates really significant serious problems for the providers but also crucially for people who rely on adult social care services.”

Mike Padgham, Chairman of the Independent Care Group, who has worked in the sector for 30 years, said at the weekend that the deadline could mean up to 500 homes across England having to close their doors.

Worth reading in full.

‘No Jab, No Job’ Policy Could Force Some Care Homes to Close, Warns Union

Forcing care homes to sack staff who choose not to get vaccinated will create a staffing crisis that could put homes at risk of closing, warns Unison as the Government seems set to march on with its plans. “Staff… say they are heartbroken to have to leave the jobs they love,” says the union, the largest in social care. “However, many feel totally undervalued and bullying is the last straw for them.” GB News has the story.

Unison said ministers were “sleepwalking” into a disaster, and revealed an exodus of staff had already begun.

The union said the controversial mandatory vaccination rule for England was pushing thousands of workers to the brink of quitting care work ahead of the September 16th deadline to get their first vaccination or face losing their job.

Mandatory vaccination has been a “massive distraction” from the job of caring for people, diverting time and resources from employers and the Government, said Unison.

General Secretary Christina McAnea said: “Minister have been told repeatedly that using force instead of persuasion will fail, but they’ve not listened and now their ill-considered policy is backfiring. …

“The Government must scrap the ‘no jab, no job’ rule now. Widespread care home closures could be the consequence if they ignore the warnings.”

Worth reading in full.

Care Homes Could Be Forced to Call On the Relatives of Their Residents to Help Out Due to Staff Shortages Caused by Vaccine Mandate

Staff shortages in care homes caused by Government-imposed Covid vaccine mandates could force some homes to call on the families of their residents to volunteer to work on reception and to serve meals. The Telegraph has the story.

Providers have voiced fears that shortages caused by workers refusing to be double jabbed will amount to such a significant proportion of the workforce that the sector could collapse.

In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, one care home manager has written to the relatives of residents – many of whom are paying thousands of pounds for care – asking for help with caring duties “if the worst comes to the worst”.

Mike Padgham, Chairman of the Independent Care Group for York and North Yorkshire and owner of Saint Cecilia’s Care Services, which operates four care businesses, said the plan showed the “crisis” facing the sector, adding: “We want to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” …

The Government has previously estimated that its mandatory vaccination policy will result in about 40,000 care home staff – 7% – either quitting or being sacked, costing the embattled sector £100 million to replace. 

According to the latest available data, funded by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and published by Skills for Care in October 2020, there were 112,000 vacancies in the sector.

However, industry leaders warned that after the past year, as Covid ravaged care homes, causing the deaths of more than 40,000 residents, this number is now likely to be far higher and could even have doubled.

There are approximately 865,000 care workers, 87,000 senior care workers and 36,000 registered nurses in England, according to figures published by The King’s Fund think-tank in July.

Worth reading in full.

A Care Home Official Asks: “How Can I in All Conscience Sack Someone Who Has Done Nothing Wrong?”

There was a good letter in the Telegraph yesterday by a care home official in despair at the fact that unvaccinated carers must be booted out of their jobs later this year. It is estimated that six in 10 care facilities will be forced to sack some of their staff because they haven’t been ‘jabbed’, but this official rightly asks: “How can I in all conscience sack someone who has done nothing wrong?

SIR – I am chair of trustees of a private care home. In March 2020 we were given no option but to accept some residents with Covid back from hospital.

Despite all precautions, the disease rampaged through residents and staff. Many older people died, with only our loyal and loving carers at their side. Of staff, 90% caught the disease. They recovered and returned. We have been clear of Covid for over 15 months.

Now I am told I must sack staff who do not wish to be vaccinated. Their loyalty, skill and competence are not in question. How can I in all conscience sack someone who has done nothing wrong? This draconian rule only applies to care homes in England. Where is the justice in that?

I have been vaccinated and support vaccination but how is it reasonable to take people’s jobs because they do not wish to endure this invasive procedure? They cannot be made redundant because the job is still open.

This law hasn’t been thought through. It would have been better if we had been allowed to keep the staff we have and not employ any new unvaccinated staff. I am in despair about this injustice.

Barbara Korzeniowska

London W13

More Than Half of Care Homes Could Be Forced to Sack Staff Over Mandatory Covid Vaccination

Plans to make vaccination against Covid mandatory for care home workers could force six in 10 care facilities to fire some of their staff who refuse to get ‘jabbed’, according to new estimates. The Telegraph has the story.

The Department for Health and Social Care has ordered all care home staff to receive their first dose of a Covid vaccine by September 16th so they are fully vaccinated by the time regulations come into force on November 11th. 

This means staff – apart from those who are exempt for medical reasons – will be banned from working in care homes if they are not double-jabbed by the deadline. 

The Government has previously estimated that its mandatory vaccination policy will result in around 40,000 care home staff – 7% – either quitting or being sacked, costing the embattled sector £100 million to replace.

However, new data seen by the Telegraph suggest that 60% of care home managers believe they will be forced to sack staff based on current vaccination rates, with some seeing up to 20 carers already quitting. 

One manager told the Telegraph that the pressure to force staff into receiving a vaccine is tantamount to “moral blackmail” which “infringes on their human rights”. 

The Institute of Health and Social Care Management (IHSCM) surveyed 530 care home managers across the U.K. and found 318 said they would be forced to sack staff by November 11th based on current vaccination rates. 

Around 35% of managers expect they will lose between 1-5% of staff, 19% fear they will lose between 6-10% of carers, and 4.11% believe they will lose between 11-15% of staff.

However, as many as 3.9% of managers fear they could lose up to a fifth of their workforce, with between 16 and 20% of carers missing the November deadline.

Worth reading in full.

Booster Vaccine to Be Compulsory for Care Home Staff

Care home workers will need to get a booster Covid vaccine in order to keep their jobs, a senior Government source has said. Booster shots will also be compulsory for some foreign trips and talks are underway on whether they will play a part in vaccine passport checks at nightclubs and other ‘large venues’. The Mail on Sunday has the story.

[Booster shots] will add to the legal requirements for care home staff, who from October will have to be double-jabbed to work in the sector, subject to parliamentary approval.

Millions are set to be offered a third jab from September after Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced the roll-out to priority groups.

A Minister told the Mail on Sunday the “logical” move will be to make the booster shots a requirement for travel, adding that the most up-to-date Covid certification for travel will become as normal as the need to have a yellow fever jab to enter certain countries. …

Meanwhile talks about what booster jabs will mean for domestic certification are still at an early stage within Government.

One insider said that, as domestic passports have only been announced for nightclubs, discussions over whether boosters will one day be required for entry are still in “very early days”.

The Government will make its decision on boosters following final advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which is reviewing the scientific evidence on the third jabs.

The JCVI previously issued interim advice in June that Brits “should be prepared” for another round of inoculations.

The roll-out would work in two stages, beginning with the over-70s, care home residents, extremely vulnerable people and health and care workers. 

Then all over-50s and under-50s with long-term health problems would be offered the booster vaccine.

Mr Javid said last week: “When it comes to booster jabs we are waiting for the final advice from JCVI… and when we get that advice we will be able to start the booster programme, but I anticipate it will begin in early September, so I’m already making plans for that.”

Worth reading in full.

No Mandatory Vaccination for Care Home Staff in Wales

Wales will not be copying England in making Covid vaccination mandatory for care home staff. First Minister Mark Drakeford says that staff in positions of care should take the vaccine, but “there is a very big step taken when you move into compulsion”. This decision is likely to have been swayed by the fact that such a high proportion of care workers have already been vaccinated anyway. WalesOnline has the story.

In Wales the take-up of the vaccine has been extremely high, resulting in as many as 98% of care home residents and 92.3% of care home workers having had their first dose. The percentage when it comes to both doses is equally encouraging – 93.7% for care home residents and 85.7% for care home staff.

However, there are still 2,960 care home employees and 295 care home residents who are yet to receive their first dose – despite being in the top priority groups when the roll-out was announced last December.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government confirmed there were no plans to make Covid jabs mandatory for care home staff at this point. She said: “Protecting our most vulnerable people in care homes is at the heart of our response to the pandemic and vaccine strategy. 

“While Covid vaccination rates are at such high levels in this group – and in other priority groups and age groups – in Wales we do not see the need at this time to introduce compulsory measures.

“We will continue to work with the sector to promote the importance of vaccination and support any care workers who have not yet been vaccinated to get a vaccine.”

The country has, however, followed England’s lead in delaying the easing of lockdown restrictions by four weeks because “the Delta variant has entered Wales and quickly spread throughout the country”. The First Minister is quoted in Sky News.

There is sustained and accelerating transmission, not just in north and southeast Wales but in all parts of Wales.

It is now the most dominant variant in new cases in Wales. We are once again facing a serious public health situation.

The WalesOnline report is worth reading in full.

Hairdresser and Plumbers Working in Care Homes Also Face Mandatory Vaccination

The Government has confirmed that people who visit care homes for occasional work – including plumbers, hairdressers and inspectors – also face mandatory Covid vaccination alongside regular staff. The Sun has the story.

Downing Street said that everyone working in a home will have to be double jabbed under new laws set to kick in in October this year.

The new law applies to everyone working at a care home – including plumbers, healthcare workers, beauticians, hairdressers and inspectors.

Ministers are consulting on plans to also make the jab mandatory for NHS staff as well.

While Number 10 is also considering making the flu vaccine compulsory for health and social care staff.

Boris Johnson is backing hugely controversial plans to make it illegal for care home workers to refuse the jab amid growing alarm that so many are refusing.

The scope of forced vaccination is likely to be extended soon, according to the Gov.uk website.

The responses to the consultation [on the mandatory vaccination of care home staff] made a case for extending this policy beyond care homes to other settings where people vulnerable to Covid receive care, such as domiciliary care and wider healthcare settings.

Based on this evidence, the Government will launch a further public consultation in due course on whether or not to make Covid and flu vaccination a condition of deployment in health and care settings. This is a complex issue and the Government is looking for a wide range of perspectives from across the health and care sector about whether this should be introduced and how it could be implemented.

The Sun report is worth reading in full.

Many Care Workers Would Rather Quit Than Be Forced to Take Covid Vaccine, Says Union Boss

The GMB Union has hit back against the prospect of care home workers being forced to take Covid vaccines. Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, says the Government doesn’t have “the foggiest idea or concern about the impact their decisions make on a workforce already suffering from many of the worst political failures during the pandemic”. The union has warned that more than a third of its members in social care would consider quitting if vaccines are mandated.

The i has more.

GMB said that the move, which is being considered by the Government, was an attempt to “strongarm” care workers into taking the jab. 

Under the plans, care home staff in England who work with older people would be required to get the jab or risk losing their jobs. They will reportedly have 16 weeks to get vaccinated.

One in six care workers – around 52,000 – have not had the vaccine despite being eligible. 

Rachel Harrison said: “Carers have been at the forefront of this pandemic, risking their lives to keep our loved ones safe, often enduring almost Victorian working standards in the process.

“The Government could do a lot to help them: address their pay, terms and conditions, increasing the rate of and access to contractual sick pay, banning zero hours, and ensuring more mobile NHS vaccination teams so those working night shifts can get the jab,” she said. 

“Instead, ministers are ploughing ahead with plans to strongarm care workers into taking the vaccine without taking seriously the massive blocks these workers still face in getting jabbed.”

Unison General Secretary Christina McAnea said that “encouragement achieves better results with the nervous than threats or coercion”.

“The Government’s sledgehammer approach now runs the risk that some care staff may simply walk away from an already understaffed, undervalued and underpaid sector,” she said. 

On Tuesday morning, Cabinet minister Liz Truss insisted that the Government had not yet committed to the plans, saying that officials were “currently consulting on this issue” but that a decision would be “very imminent”. The Government have refused to rule out the move.

However, Ms Truss said it was “incredibly important” for care home staff to be vaccinated. …

The Government is also planning a consultation on whether Covid jabs should be made compulsory for all NHS staff, alongside those in social care. According to official data, 151,000 NHS workers – just over one in 10 – have not have [sic] the vaccine.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that plans to force care home staff to get vaccinated against Covid will go ahead.