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Over the last four months my team and I were all challenged in ways that we could not have predicted. There were many difficulties that we had to face.
My team members and I put our health and that of our families to one side and we came to work every day. Our organisation put measures in place to ensure that as a care home we went in to lockdown early.
This meant no nonessential visits to the home. At this point there was no national lockdown in place. We as professionals recognised the potential risk to residents’ health should the virus “get in” to the care home.
Our nurses were told by paramedics that residents would not be treated should they go to hospital. We were told that they would be “left to die”. Families were told, in front of their loved ones, that there was “no point” in taking any action. Care home staff, therefore, tried to ensure the most comfortable end-of-life care possible was in place.
Guidelines changed every day, so it was impossible to ensure that we were always on top of the most current guidance. Risk assessments were written and updated regularly, protocols were in place for all possible eventualities and strictly adhered to.
Any contact with professionals outside of the home was carried out by video call. This put more pressure on the nurses and responsibility was firmly laid at their feet as they were the clinicians on site at the time.
Testing was not in place for care homes, although while MPs were announcing that it was happening, Public Health England told us that there were no plans in place. By the time testing was possible we had experienced our first wave of deaths, with a large number of staff in isolation. As an organisation we remained vocal about our needs but these pleas were not always heard.
I contracted Covid-19 as did many of my team and it was a struggle for us to stay away knowing that people in our care needed us. We didn’t have the luxury or safety net that allowed us to work from home.
Our residents and their families told us that if it wasn’t for our team efforts, then so many more lives would have ended earlier than needed.
“The comments made directly by him were an insult to those on my team and across social care”
On Monday 6 July I read that our prime minister Boris Johnson felt that the deaths in care homes were because homes did not follow guidance. I for one strongly dispute this and on reading this statement I sent the prime minister an invite via Twitter, suggesting that he visit the care home that I manage to meet with the staff and residents who endured Covid-19, and speak to those who worked tirelessly every day to maintain the physical and mental wellbeing of everyone around them while grieving for those that died in our care.
I feel that the prime minister has spoken loudly of his appreciation of our colleagues in the NHS. He invited workers to Downing Street to offer thanks for their care. The comments made directly by him were an insult to those on my team and across social care who found themselves in hospital and were very poorly.
Residents in care homes are like family to those of us who work there. This means that we are still grieving for this huge loss, a loss that I hope never to experience again.
I don’t want applause, I did my job. I want the residents that I am responsible for to be respected, those that we lost to be honoured and the staff that worked non-stop throughout to be applauded and treated like equals.
I hope that the prime minister accepts my invite and contacts me to arrange a visit to our home.
Grainne Wokes is care home manager, Methodist Homes (MHA)