ASSURANCES about testing of key health and care staff, and the equipment available to protect them, don’t match what’s happening on the ground, according to one north Wales AM.
Rhun ap Iowerth AM who represents Ynys Môn and is Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister, says many key workers are contacting him to raise deep concerns that testing is too slow and that equipment being promised isn’t being delivered. He’s calling for a ‘real assessment’ of the situation, action to fill in gaps in testing and PPE provision as well as ‘honesty’ about the challenges:
“We’ve been told for some time that front line that health workers were top of the list for testing. In fact, over a thousand tests have been carried out on frontline NHS workers, but it’s not enough.
“We need widespread testing to track the spread of the virus but also so staff who are having to self-isolate are able to get back to work if they test negatively.
“One member of NHS staff at Ysbyty Gwynedd described claims that staff were being tested as ‘rubbish’. One GP surgery said they’d been turned down for tests on 4 GPs where were self-isolating and unable to work. I know of one Dr whose test went ‘missing’.”
Mr ap Iorwerth also raised concerns about the ‘missing 5000 tests’ that came to light over the past few days:
“We were promised that 6000 tests A DAY would be done by now. We’re still on around 1000. Welsh Government say a company that was meant to deliver tests reneged on its deal, and amid suggestions that Welsh Government were ‘outbid’ for those tests, we need to know why and if so, by whom. I will support Welsh Government in any efforts to ensure there’s a level playing field across the UK.”
“I’ve asked Government to publish figures showing the backlog of tests needed within the health and care sector. It’s only then that we’ll be able to measure the extent of the problem, and put a plan in place to resolve it.”
On Personal Protective Equipment, Mr ap Iorwerth says there are very widespread concerns:
“Concern over protective equipment has become one of the defining features of this crisis. Health and care workers need to be protected, and they need to feel safe. In other sectors, too, where key workers are being asked to carry on with their duties, there needs to be adequate protection.
“The care sector appears particularly stretched, with one care home saying they have access to only ‘tiny’ amounts of supplies. This needs to be resolved.
“One senior health official told me that there needed to be some more ‘honesty’ about the challenge with PPE. The Government has ordered a review, Let’s hope that gives us the true picture. Key worklers deserve no less.”
One NHS nurse who wishes to remain anonymous said,
“The staff are frightened for their lives. We’re scared we’re going to die because we don’t have the right protective equipment.
“We’re all scared to go too near our children and our families. I can’t even touch my son or give him a hug because I’m afraid I could be carrying the virus and pass it on to him.
“We still haven’t got the tests that we need to keep our patients and ourselves safe. We’re exhausted. We’re not sleeping. Our families are scared for our welfare.