Care homes are being “let down all over again” in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis as testing capacity for the disease is “squandered”, Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw has claimed.
He criticised the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic in care homes, saying if tests had been used “effectively” then every worker and resident would have been able to get checked twice in the last few weeks.
Instead he told Nicola Sturgeon that in one care organisation just over half (56%) of staff had been tested for Covid-19.
He said this did not take place on the repeat basis Health Secretary Jeane Freeman promised it would last month.
The Scottish Government’s treatment of care homes has been to “dither, delay and distract”, Mr Carlaw claimed.
Ms Freeman pledged routine testing for care home staff on May 18.
During First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood, Mr Carlaw told Ms Sturgeon: “The tragedy is this, Scotland has the capacity to test.
“Indeed, if you had used that capacity effectively since the end of April, you could have tested all the residents and staff at care homes twice.
“Instead capacity is being squandered and care home workers and residents, who have already endured the horror of this crisis, are being let down all over again.”
Mr Carlaw said while Renaissance Care has 1,150 staff, “only 649 of them have been tested, just 56%, and even then not on the repeated basis that the Health Secretary promised on May 18”.
He said it is “deeply worrying” 7% of workers who were tested had been found to have Covid-19, despite having had no symptoms of the virus.
The Scottish Tory leader asked Ms Sturgeon if the Government is “letting care homes down all over again”.
He said: “There are 50,000 care home workers in Scotland, if they were being routinely tested every week there would be a minimum of 7,000 tests a day.
“Yet yesterday the total number of tests done for all of Scotland was fewer than 5,000 and the day before that it was fewer than 3,000. It doesn’t add up.”
Ms Sturgeon stressed the “programme of regular and routine care home staff testing is under way”.
She added when ministers have “robust and reliable figures to report” these will be made public.
“It is important to note the testing of care home staff requires to be done not on a one-off basis but on a regular basis,” the First Minister added.
“We will also be considering what further groups of the population we will also want to test on a routine basis – and that consideration of course also includes NHS staff.”
She denied claims the Scottish Government is failing care homes, telling Mr Carlaw the signs are the measures that have been introduced are having an impact.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We do see now care home deaths, while still too high, declining quite rapidly, and we also see from the peak to the middle part of May that care home deaths have been declining slightly faster than deaths in hospitals.
“I say that because that that suggests that the package of measures we are taking in care homes and to protect care home residents is having an effect.”
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