Efforts to test Fife’s care home residents for coronavirus will be stepped up from this week as part of an action plan to support under-pressure staff.
The ” significant increase” in help for care homes emerged on Wednesday, hours after it was revealed 54 people have died of covid-19 in facilities across the region – up from 38 last week.
Across Scotland, 43% of covid-19 deaths have taken place in a care home setting and the proportion has risen each week.
The virus has claimed the lives of 14 residents at Methven House in Kirkcaldy alone and a member of staff said a number of others were also very ill, a situation she described as truly heartbreaking.
She said she and her colleagues had not had access to personal protective equipment (PPE) at the start of the outbreak.
Six staff members have also contracted coronavirus but are said to have recovered or be recovering.
In a briefing prepared for elected members and seen by The Courier, Fife’s director of health and social care Nicky Connor, and director of public health Dona Milne, said the action plan will offer support with PPE along with increased training and education.
People admitted to care homes are now being tested for covid-19 and a mobile testing team will undertake enhanced levels of testing for those already resident, they said.
In addition, district nurses will visit each home every day to assess how well they are coping and offer any necessary help.
One care home has already provided with a team of staff due to shortages among its own employees.
“This is a significant increase in support for our care homes and they can seek additional support at anytime,” said Ms Connor and Ms Milne.
“Where there are concerns that a care home is not following public health advice, this will be escalated to the Care Inspectorate immediately.”
Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSP Alex Rowley had called for more transparency over who was responsible for ensuring the safety of care home residents amid fears there were serious weaknesses in some facilities.
He welcomed the increase in testing and called for care homes to be made a priority.
“If we can’t protect our elderly, we fail. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
“They now seem to be making some progress, which is good.”
Despite repeated attempts, Methven House operators, Kingdom Homes, have refused to speak to The Courier but in a statement issued to the Fife Free Press, managing director Colin Smart said the company was working closely with health protection teams, the Care Inspectorate and Fife Health and Social Care Partnership.
“Sourcing PPE was a challenge initially, however we now have ample stocks and are being well supported with this by the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership,” he said.
“Our staff care deeply for our residents. They continue under the most difficult circumstances to place the residents’ welfare at the heart of everything they do.”