By Marie Roulston, Director of Social Care and Children, Health and Social Care Board
Protecting people who live in care homes, our care home residents and supporting the dedicated staff that care for them, is of immense importance for us in the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB).
We know that our care homes are currently at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic, and appreciate the additional challenges this poses to maintaining ongoing care and assistance to those who live in care homes.
I fully appreciate that this crisis has caused so much fear and anxiety for us all. This is particularly so for care home residents, their families and the staff. We are committed to doing everything we can to further prevent the spread of COVID-19 in care homes.
In recognition of the difficulties that COVID-19 presents for our 483 care homes across the region, the HSCB and our HSC partner organisations have worked together to build on the work already done and to put in place a Care Home Surge Plan as we continue to face these difficulties.
The objectives of this plan are to reduce the number of outbreaks and the number individuals in each outbreak; to provide robust integrated Medical, Nursing, Social Care responses to the outbreaks; to continue to keep those homes that are free from the virus that way; and to work in partnership with care homes owners to ensure person centred care is delivered to all residents irrespective of whether they have COVID-19 or not.
A number of specific actions are being taken forward in addition to public health management. These include partnership working between HSC Trusts and care homes, strengthening infection prevention and control, testing arrangements for all care home residents and staff and, shielding arrangements such as reduced visiting and footfall within care homes.
The plan ensures that each care home has appropriate clinical pathways in place so that residents get the help they need when they need it. The plan also recognises that care homes will face particular challenges when staff become unwell and are unable to work. Arrangements are in place to provide additional staffing support to care homes in such circumstances.
The HSCB have also provided financial support approved by the Department of Health to care homes to help them meet the challenge of the pandemic.
None of this can be done without the support of the dedicated staff who work in care homes and I wish to pay tribute to them for their efforts during this challenging period and to offer my personal thanks.
We will keep the work that we do under constant review as we continue to fight this virus together.
You can view a copy of the ‘live’ surge plan here.