The shock death rate at Angus care homes has led to calls for the Scottish Government to clarify how it is protecting residents whose lives are in the hands of private operators.
The latest figures show 63% of the total Angus deaths with coronavirus mentioned on the death certificate have occurred in care homes.
It amounts to 31 of the 49 coronavirus deaths in Angus — the second highest percentage in the country, behind Clackmannanshire and joint with East Lothian.
It comes after Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman admitted this week that the government’s ability to intervene directly with private operators is “limited”.
North East Conservative MSP Bill Bowman said the Scottish Government must take responsibility for its vulnerable citizens.
He said: “The battle against coronavirus is being fought on two fronts.
“I’m pleased the public have taken government guidance to heart as that has undoubtedly saved lives.
“However the proportion of cases and deaths in care settings still needs to be addressed.
“Even though this involves private enterprise, we need full transparency, as well as evidence of testing and reporting on a par with hospitals.
“The responsibility for ensuring that lies with the SNP government. They must outline exactly how they are preparing care homes for infection and how they are helping when the worst happens.”
The Angus figure is significantly higher than the national average of 43% and comes as up to 20 residents are understood to have now died at South Grange Nursing Home in Monifieth.
The home’s operators Barchester will not publicly disclose how many are suspected to be due to coronavirus, or how many staff or residents have contracted the virus.
Donald MacAskill, chef executive of Scottish Care, said the number of deaths in the sector across Scotland is lower than what has been seen in many other parts of Europe.
He added: “As is being seeing everywhere, we know these people are the worst hit part of the population. Scotland is experiencing exactly the same.
“It’s still distressing of course and concerning to see so many people pass away.
“We are pushing for adequate testing and hospital-grade face masks to be mandatory in all care homes, for staff and residents.”
It comes as an army-run mobile testing unit is set-up at crisis-hit Home Farm care home in Skye.
57 residents and staff at the Portree facility, run by HC One, have tested positive with three residents dying.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “On 1 May, the First Minister announced enhanced outbreak investigations in care homes. All residents and staff will be offered testing, whether they are symptomatic or not, in homes where there has been a confirmed case. The investigations will include other homes if that facility is part of a group or chain. There will also be sample testing in care homes where there are no cases.
“Directors of Public Health have been tasked with providing enhanced clinical leadership and have contacted every care home in Scotland to assess how they are managing infection prevention and control, staffing, training, physical distancing and testing. This is alongside enhanced clinical support for residents from primary care teams including GPs and community nurses.
“To supplement this new clinical oversight the Scottish Government has established a Care Home Rapid Action Group. This is a national group set up to monitor developments in the care home sector, reacting swiftly to developing issues and coordinating our wider package of support to the sector.
“This work aims to support every single care home in Scotland, whether it has had an outbreak or not.”
NHS Tayside and Angus Health and Social Care Partnership said that where there was a Covid-19 outbreak care homes were supported by the NHS health protection team and the partnership.
In a joint statement, they said: “The Health protection team provides guidance and support including discussing extra precautions, such as closing the care home to new admissions or isolating residents if it is appropriate to do so.
“These decisions are reviewed with the care home team on a daily basis.
“The health protection team is in contact with South Grange Nursing Home every day to assess and advise on infection control precautions, physical distancing, staffing, training and testing.”
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