Another reminder that providers in other countries are facing even more dire challenges.
The UK Government has published new guidelines saying aged care homes must accept residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The guidance also says hospitals will not routinely test residents sent to aged care homes – so managers will not know if returning residents are infectious but asymptomatic.
“Some [returning]patients may have Covid-19, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic,” it reads. “All of these patients can be safely cared for in a care home if this guidance is followed.”
Furthermore, the guidelines say that not all residents will be tested if a home has more than one symptomatic resident – instead the health protection teams can arrange swabbing for up to five residents to confirm an outbreak.
“Testing all cases is not required as this would not change the subsequent management of an outbreak,” it adds.
Understandably, managers have hit the roof.
Simon Whalley, the owner of Birtley House in Bramley, Surrey, told The Guardian the guidance had been issued with a “complete lack of real understanding and no attempt to understand what the care sector can and cannot do”.
“They’re just expecting us to cope without giving us any support at all,” he added. “Our first responsibility is to the residents we currently have. You can’t just put a new resident in an empty room next to a resident who is clear of the infection. And what about the ambulance people who bring the resident into the home? We won’t know if they’re contagious either.”
Another anonymous manager of a home in Buckinghamshire said she would resign or refuse to follow the guidelines.
“Why would I risk the lives of all my residents, not to mention my family and my staff and their families?” she said.
An impossible situation for managers – follow the guidelines knowing they may be responsible for bringing the virus into their homes, or quit and leave vulnerable residents and stressed staff to fend for themselves?