PLAID CYMRU Leader Adam Price has called on the First Minister to change his Government’s policy and to expand testing to all care home residents and staff – regardless of size or status of outbreak.
First Minister Mark Drakeford admitted during today’s FMQs that testing in care homes without outbreaks has “clinical value” and has accepted that the threshold of 50 residents was “arbitrary”.
Figures from the Welsh Government published yesterday showed that there were 1,239 deaths in are care homes in Wales for the month of April this year – two and a half times the figure for the previous year, which was 478.
Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price said the statistics confirmed that care homes had become “hotspots” for the virus and questioned the reasoning behind the Welsh Government’s policy not to test all staff and residents in care homes.
Following widespread criticism, the Welsh Government announced a U-turn in their testing policy for care homes late last week. Under the new policy, those living or working in a care home where there are “outbreaks” will now be tested, with repeat tests to be done a week later.
Testing is also available in the largest care homes – those with more than 50 beds. The criteria remains narrower than that in England where all care home staff and residents can be tested.
Mr Price said the policy unfairly discriminated against care homes in rural and valleys communities where homes are typically smaller”.
Mr Price questioned where the policy was due to a lack of testing capacity and said, if that was the case, then the Welsh Government should “admit and address it”. Mr Price said that to confirm that testing can have clinical value in homes without confirmed or suspected cases and that the current threshold is “arbitrary” meant that many homes that could benefit from testing were being denied.
The Plaid Cymru Leader agreed with the Older People’s Commissioner who said that the Welsh Government should be offering testing to staff and residents in all homes without distinction.
In Wales, the daily testing rate remains around or below 1,000 with a capacity of 2,000 tests a day. The Welsh Government has been criticised for dropping its target of reaching 9,000 tests a day by end of April.
Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price said,
“The huge increase in the number of care home deaths last month compared to the same time last year paints a grim picture and confirms that care homes have become hotspots for the virus.
“Why then is the Welsh Government still refusing to test all care home residents and staff?
“By admitting that the threshold for testing all staff and residents in care homes with fifty residents or more is “arbitrary” but again refusing to expand the policy to test all care home residents and staff, the First Minister unfairly discriminates against smaller care homes – particularly those in rural and valleys communities.
“If the underlying reason why testing is being denied to call homes is capacity then the Welsh Government needs to admit it and address it. Confirming that testing can have clinical value in homes even without confirmed or suspected cases and that the current cut-off is arbitrary means there are many homes which could benefit that are currently being denied testing.
“As the Older People’s Commissioner has said, the Welsh Government should be offering testing to staff and residents in all homes without distinction.