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Care homes in Cornwall record coronavirus deaths

Care homes in Cornwall record coronavirus deaths

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 6:00am 15th April 2020.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

A number of people have died with coronavirus in care homes in Cornwall.

However there is difficulty in confirming which are a direct result of Covid-19 due to the need for diagnosis.

Rob Rotchell, Cabinet member for adults at Cornwall Council, confirmed that there have been deaths at care homes in Cornwall but could not say how many.

He said: “The challenge with care homes is you can only confirm a death by Covid-19 if you have a diagnosis.

“There will inevitably be people who are passing away who may have died from Covid-19 but didn’t have a diagnosis.

“The numbers that we are being given each day won’t take into consideration those people who may have contracted the condition and were not diagnosed.”

Cllr Rotchell added: “There are nine care homes in Cornwall where they have two or more confirmed or probable cases. Relatively speaking that is a very low percentage.

“I sit on the South West leaders’ forum and colleagues in Gloucester and Bristol say their percentage is way, way, way higher. Obviously they have a lot more care homes than we have.”

The Cabinet member said that the care home system in Cornwall was “coping reasonably well” with the crisis but added that the South West “is slightly behind the curve due to its rurality”.

He added: “We are learning lessons from the urban areas and have amended our practices accordingly.”

elderly woman

The one key issue for care homes in Cornwall, similar to elsewhere in the country, is the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Cllr Rotchell said: “At the moment we have got sufficient but supply is very, very difficult and I am only echoing what is being said across the country and in the NHS and among GPs – supply is sporadic really.

“What has been really helpful is the number of private businesses and schools which have stepped up to provide us with PPE.”

Cllr Rotchell said the care homes workforce was currently down by between 10% and 15% due to staff self-isolation due to themselves or their family members showing symptoms of Covid-19.

But he said the number was remaining static and added that a testing centre in Plymouth and one at Royal Cornwall Hospital was helping.

He added that all care homes in Cornwall had stopped relatives visiting loved ones and this was a difficult aspect.

“From my own perspective when my mum was in a care home for a number of years, seeing people everyday was what kept her going. I would hate to think what it would be like for her now.

“People can Skype and video chat, that is really good, but it is not the same as having a family member sat by you and holding your hand.”

pensioner elderly

Cornwall Council launched a recruitment campaign two weeks ago for people to work in the care sector and had more than 400 responses.

Cllr Rotchell said more than 200 had been processed and the first two cohorts were now working in Cornwall.

He said that for those who had little experience there was a “buddy” system in place to help them.

Cllr Rotchell said some of those who had come forward were returning to care while others had been working in the hospitality or tourism industries but found themselves out of work.

The Cabinet member said a lot of focus had been given to the NHS and the work they are doing.

He said: “People understand the NHS and what they do but for me it is much wider. The vast majority of caring takes place outside the NHS, whether in the local authority, in care homes, by domiciliary care.

“Quite frankly without that the system would be swamped.

“I want to pay tribute to those people working in care in Cornwall who are helping the most vulnerable.

“You have domiciliary carers who are supporting six to eight people every day so that they can stay in their homes. In some ways it is a bigger challenge for them to do that, as big as those who work in acute hospitals.”

And the councillor also paid tribute to those people who have come forward to volunteer and help vulnerable people in Cornwall.

“It never ceases to amaze me, the generosity of people in Cornwall, the response is always amazing. When we launched the recruitment campaign we also launched a campaign with Volunteer Cornwall and had more than 3,000 people come forward.

“That is in addition to all the community groups which are already out there helping to support people who are frail and isolated not just because of covid-19.

“Full credit to all those people and the incredible work that they are doing.”

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