‘Masks locked away and staff feeling scared’ - Senior carer speaks out over care home struggles


Picture: GETTY IMAGES/OCSKAYMARK - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Masks locked away in offices and struggles to communicate are among the struggles one Norfolk care home worker says she has experienced while working during the coronavirus pandemic.

Elderly woman applying hand sanitizer gel from caregiver to helping protect from coronavirus covid-1

Elderly woman applying hand sanitizer gel from caregiver to helping protect from coronavirus covid-19. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/TOA55 - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The senior member of staff, who did not wish to be named, said staff can feel scared of the dangers for residents, themselves and their families, on a daily basis.

The lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been an issue for many health organisations, with low supplies or breaks in the chain, but the staff member said equipment has been locked away for being to expensive.

The care worker said: “At first we weren’t allowed to wear masks. They would be locked in an office and only the manager had a key.

MORE: Almost two thirds of care homes have had no staff tested, data suggests

“We only got visors about three weeks ago. We use gloves, the aprons are plastic sheets, we do not have covering protection that you see in the hospital.

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“Most staff are just scared to speak up.

“We are trying to do all we can not allow anyone in the building. We are helping someone else’s family and trying to put a smile on their faces when they cannot see them.

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“It’s all we can do, it’s hard.”

Staff were also facing long days working up to 14-hours due to staff shortages.

The care home worker said: “If you do go to work you are worried you are putting your family at risk.”

With family unable to visit loved ones, one struggle has been to help their residents, nearly all of whom have dementia, about what is going on.

The care worker said: “They do not understand why they cannot go out, they do not understand what’s going on and trying to explain three to four times a day that there is a bug outside and it is killing people. It’s hard and all the staff are emotional and sacred for ourselves and our families.”

Paul Farley, UNISON Eastern regional organiser, said: “Any employer has a responsibility to provide enough PPE for their staff and care homes should be making sure there’s enough protective kit to keep staff and the vulnerable residents they look after safe.

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“We’ve worked closely with the council and understand it’s procured significant stocks of PPE on top of the modest amounts provided centrally. Any home pleading poverty to deny staff proper PPE is failing in their duty of care.

“Unfortunately these staffing issues have been going on for years. The devastating cuts inflicted by Westminster Tories have gutted social care budgets and left care workers’ pay far below what it needs to be to keep enough people in the sector.”

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said while it is not conducting routine inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic, if there were evidence people were at “immediate risk” it will take action.

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