A grieving Forfar man says lessons have not been learned from the wave of Covid-19 deaths in care homes earlier this year.
Alan Wightman, whose 88-year-old mum Helen died after contracting coronavirus at Scoonie House care home in Leven in May, criticised Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman over what he called a failure to take responsibility for the discharge of coronavirus patients to care homes.
Ms Freeman said it was at the discretion of doctors to decide if patients should be discharged to care homes without a negative coronavirus test, adding that this would only happen in “exceptional circumstances”.
But Mr Wightman said: “I think it’s a bit disingenuous to say the clinician said they can go into a care home, nothing to do with us.
“It’s got everything to do with you; you’re the government, you set the rules.
“And what help are you giving the care homes to give effective isolation?”
“Yes, it’s a clinical decision for that individual taken in isolation. It takes no account of anyone else in the care home and it makes an assumption that a care home is able to effectively isolate somebody who is positive.
“It may be in the interests of that individual to go into another setting but what about the 20 or 30 other residents in the care home?”
Mr Wightman and other families who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 have called for a public inquiry into coronavirus deaths in care homes.
This was initially knocked back by the Scottish Government, but opposition parties have since narrowly won a vote in parliament for an inquest.
“If we’d had the public inquiry, some of these answers might have been addressed,” said Mr Wightman.
“We’re in the second wave of the pandemic and we’re making all the same mistakes all over again.”
The Scottish Government has repeatedly come under fire for the handling of care homes during the pandemic, with current policy stating two negative tests are needed for a patient who was being treated for Covid-19 to be discharged into a care home and one negative test if they were dealing with another ailment.
But Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Ms Freeman said the final decision would be made by health and social work professionals, adding it would not be appropriate for politicians to intervene.
She said: “If and where older people are being discharged from hospital into a care home or back into their own home without the two negative tests for coronavirus that we have in our policy position, that will be a clinical decision made by a clinical team and the social work team that are working with that elderly person and their family.
“It is entirely right and proper, I think, that clinicians who are experienced in elderly care and medical care and social work staff experienced in social work support for older people are the ones who will make the final decision.”
Ms Freeman sought to reassure those with concerns, saying this was an “exception” to the current rules.
She added: “The care homes themselves take serious responsibility about their infection prevention and control procedures, and do their very, very best to follow our guidance, with our support, on PPE and other matters.”
Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, accused the health secretary of “throwing doctors and social workers under the bus for following her guidance”, adding that the practice should be ended.
She said: “People known to have Covid-19 should not be placed in care homes and Jeane Freeman must put a stop to this dangerous practice immediately before more lives are lost.
“Thousands of older and disabled people living in care homes have been forbidden from even talking to their loved one through the window, yet the Scottish Government is allowing residents to bring the virus through the back door.
“Too many lives have already been sacrificed. This must end today.”
A report released last month by Public Health Scotland found more than 100 people were discharged from hospital to care homes in the early part of the pandemic without first testing negative for coronavirus.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the report showed that hospital discharges did not increase the likelihood of a coronavirus outbreak in care homes.
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