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UNIONS in Carmarthenshire have expressed their concerns for their members during the COVID-19 outbreak. The unions issued the following statement today, Wednesday (Apr 1).

Our branch (Carmarthenshire County Unison) raised with senior management of Carmarthenshire County Council yesterday that we did not accept the guidance of Public Health Wales when it comes to the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Public Health Wales advises that PPE should only be used where a patient is exhibiting Convid-19 symptoms or has Convid-19.We stated that we wanted all care workers who work in Domiciliary Care and in Residential Care to have full PPE that includes a mask, eye protection, disposable gloves and aprons. We stated that the current guidance did not protect service users from contracting the virus from carers and visa versa and if our members/staff continued visiting service users without adequate PPE this would inevitably result in very serious consequences for service users, carers and the service could be at risk of breakdown.

Senior management agreed that staff needed to be given full PPE for the above reasons but related that this was not a problem of their making but they were not getting sufficient PPE supplies from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) despite pleading for supplies.

It would appear that the Labour led WAG are attempting to make a silk purse of sow’s ear- they do not have enough PPE but rather than admit this to the public, NHS frontline staff and care workers in local government they appear to be rationing PPE by telling frontline health and local government care workers to only use PPE when someone is suspected of having Convid-19 or they have symptoms and where local authorities ask for more tell them to stop misusing it!

The guidance of WAG through Public Health Wales is built around protecting WAG from criticism. We ask no we demand where is the desperately needed PPE for staff who are working day in day out in difficult circumstances to provide vital services to the most vulnerable in society.

The situation is so bad that the Directors of Local Government Social Care have we understand jointly written a letter to the Welsh Local Government Association complaining about the lack of PPE; that the current guidance lacks logic and that the guidance risks causing a failure in the service. This strongly worded letter starkly points out the consequences of current policy.

While it could not be predicted when a new virus would come on the scene it was entirely predictable that a new virus would rear its ugly head at some stage. It seems apparent that the WAG and successive Tory governments did not plan sufficiently for this eventuality. Not only did they not plan sufficiently the Labour WAG dutifully passed on devastating Tory cuts to Local Government in Wales and underfunded our NHS by a billion pounds. These savage cuts were then administered by every council in Wales leaving them in a much weakened state to fight the impact of Convid-19. Our members will strive might and main to keep critical services going but they are not being given the tools (PPE) to do the job and stay safe. We are told we are all in this together but it seems care workers are being expected to work in risker situations than most.

The Labour WAG needs to come clean about what PPE it has and how it is going to get more. Care staff and NHS frontline workers need full PPE and they need it now. If necessary it should nationalise companies to ensure adequate supply. The WAG needs to be demanding the full funding of NHS in Wales and that council funding by Central Government is returned to 2010 levels.

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