THE Senedd’s health committee has strongly criticised the Welsh Government over some of its actions during the COVID pandemic. It reports that care homes have been “badly let down” and that the Welsh Government has been too slow to respond.
The report states that it took “too long” to start “appropriate testing measures” and “exposed serious weaknesses that existed in many areas”.
It also concluded, “We are deeply troubled by the number of COVID-related deaths in care homes. Care homes look after some of our oldest and most vulnerable members of society. They deserve to be protected in the event of a national health emergency, yet they have been badly let down during this crisis.”
The Welsh Government in response said it did not accept residents had been let down.
“The Senedd’s health committee has focused on testing, which is just one part of our response,” a spokesman said.
“We have provided a wide range of support, including extra nursing staff where necessary and free PPE [personal protective equipment] for care homes across Wales.”
Early in the outbreak, 1,097 patients were discharged from hospitals to Care homes without being tested for Covid-19 and residents with symptoms, and those being discharged from hospital were not routinely tested until 29 April.
It was on 16 May the Welsh Government announced that all residents and staff, regardless of whether they had symptoms, could be tested. However, the committee points out this was “considerably later than both England (28 April) and Scotland (1 May)” took the same decision.
Concluding the report states that the Welsh Government’s initial approach was “flawed” and that “t was subsequently too slow in responding to the mounting crisis”, the report adds.
Responding a Welsh Government spokesman said its approach had been “rooted in scientific evidence with the sole objective of saving lives, regardless of where people live”.
“Everyone working in social care has worked tirelessly to protect some of the most vulnerable people in Wales,” he added.
The report also identified that there was a lack of PPE at the start of the outbreak and it was “extremely concerning”
Care Forum Wales, which represents the industry, said some of its members felt under pressure to admit hospital patients who had not been tested.
Chairman Mario Kreft said: “This report is essentially confirming what we knew already and what Care Forum Wales has been saying for months that essentially care homes, their residents and staff inadvertently became collateral damage in a drive to protect the NHS from being overrun.”