Social care workers in residential homes and delivering care in the homes of the vulnerable and sick go to work in fear. The South Coast Coronavirus Action Committee is concerned that workers have inadequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and training how use what they do have.
Councillor Cal Corkery, the Labour representative on the Employment Committee said:
“Health and social care workers are putting their lives on the line to look after the sick and vulnerable. They deserve our full support and that means ensuring they have the equipment necessary to do their job safely. The national PPE guidance does not go nearly far enough and I believe this is a way to try and manage insufficient stocks. It is shocking that even this weak guidance does not appear to be being followed in some workplaces and the council must urgently ensure that all care homes in the city are doing everything they can to protect workers and residents.”
Portsmouth trades council believe the PPE Guidance from Public Health England is complicated and some social care employers are not following it. Given current levels of infection and that the COVID-19 virus can be passed on by people without symptoms, they argue that there is ‘sustained transmission’ in many social care working environments. PPE is to protect people being care for as well as care staff.
Chair of the Portsmouth Trades Council Jon Woods said: “The failure of this government adequately prepare for a pandemic which has been predicted for years is a national scandal. Desperate attempts to get supplies of surgical masks, eye protection, gloves, aprons and protective clothing are shambolic. Government guidance is to an increasing extent driven by availability of PPE. As a result social care workers are putting their lives on the line every time they go to work without the necessary safety equipment”
The following was sent on 20 April from a health care assistant in a private nursing home in Portsmouth who asked to remain anonymous:
“I feel worried, well to be honest, scared, working in a nursing home. I am worried that I will pass Coronavirus to the vulnerable residents. Until this weekend we had no PPE, apart from what we normally use, aprons and gloves. We have now been given very good mouth/nose masks, but we are only allowed one mask per 12-hour shift. As we move from resident to resident, I think we should have one mask per resident, as we do with aprons and gloves. We do not have face visors so our eyes are not protected.
It is voluntary to wear the facemask and I have been bullied, picked on and laughed at by members of staff including management. As well as being scared for the residents, I am scared for myself. I am a grandmother and I want to see my grandkids grow up. I haven’t seen them for weeks.I have never seen a nurse wearing a facemask at work.
I don’t feel that the situation is being taken seriously by the government or by the nursing home. Some residents who have dementia spit at me during personal care and my eyes are unprotected. I feel that we should be given visors before the nursing home has confirmed cases of Corona virus, not afterwards.”
Some social care employers say that if personal care is being delivered to people not showing COVID-19 symptoms they do not need fluid resistant face mask and eye protection. Yet government guidance clearly states where there is sustained transmission of COVID-19 and the person being cared for is not showing any symptoms that ‘Where staff consider there is a risk to themselves or the individuals they are caring for they should wear a fluid repellent surgical mask with or without eye protection as determined by the individual staff member for the care episode/single session’
You can find out more on the goverment website here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/879111/T4_poster_Recommended_PPE_additional_considerations_of_COVID-19.pdf