Staffing issues were found at the Home Farm care home on Skye five months before residents were killed by the virus, it has emerged.
Ten residents at the home have since died during a coronavirus outbreak, which was detected at the end of April and has resulted in 30 residents and 29 staff testing positive for Covid-19.
Politicians criticised a “lack of emergency planning” ahead of the care home crisis by the Scottish Government and other organisations.
A few months after the November verdict on staffing levels was delivered, a Care Inspectorate report published in January this year revealed that problems remained.
The January report said the number of staff “fluctuated” across different days of the week and times of day that were not linked to the needs of those being cared for.
There was a lack of arrangements to cover holidays and the way breaks were arranged and staff were deployed meant “the level and quality of care and support people received was not always adequate”.
Although staff had been recruited since November, in January some residents still had to wait for “long periods” when requesting help and “some people were not receiving the care and support they needed”.
The home’s operator, HC-One, had faced the threat of having its licence to run Home Farm cancelled after an unannounced visit by the Care Inspectorate earlier this month. The Care Inspectorate made its inspection after the virus had struck.
The Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland applied to Inverness Sheriff Court to cancel HC-One’s licence to run the home.
On Tuesday a sheriff ruled HC-One could continue running the site until at least June 10 after it reached an agreement with NHS Highlands and other agencies that would minimise disruption and allow management issues to be addressed.
Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant claimed the fact that staffing concerns were reported in November highlighted a lack of emergency planning on the part of the Scottish Government and its agencies.
The Labour MSP said: “I think the Care Inspectorate had their hands tied because they have not got sufficient powers or resources. They end up issuing requirement after requirement after requirement. The end story is that care homes are trundling along from one year to the next, failing to offer the right care because there is no power in the system to remedy that. Added to that there is a resourcing issue. When the Covid-19 crisis broke out in February the Care Inspectorate should have taken an overview and listed every single home that was weak and examined how on earth they were going to manage in this crisis. But I don’t think they had the staff to do it.
“Sadly it shows a lack of emergency planning on behalf of the government and agencies, despite seeing this pandemic spread across the globe.”
Our inspectors are working tirelessly to effect swift solutions for care homes and carry out scrutiny checks.”
Care Inspectorate spokesman
A Care Inspectorate spokesman said every Scottish care home was contacted weekly and sometimes daily. Contact with homes had been “significantly increased” since the start of the pandemic.
“This means our 300 inspectors are making nearly 3,000 contacts with care services across Scotland every week, including at weekends,” the spokesman said.
“Our inspectors are working tirelessly to effect swift solutions for care homes and carry out scrutiny checks. We check that infection prevention and control measures are being followed, that there are adequate levels of PPE and that staffing levels are appropriate.”
A spokesman for HC-One said: “We accept we have not always got care right at Home Farm, and we apologise to our residents, their families, and the local community. However, we are confident the issues raised in the previous Care Inspectorate’s 2019 reports were resolved through the additional support we provided to the home at that time. As is well known, part of the challenge we faced was recruiting for clinical and leadership roles at the home and this could not be resolved quickly.”
Just as this virus is new to scientists and clinicians around the world, it is also new to the social care sector.”
Scottish Government spokeswoman
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We already have a very effective system of inspection for social care in Scotland. The Care Inspectorate (CI), now with their partners Healthcare Improvement Scotland, have a robust inspection regime and are actively engaged in providing support and intervention to care homes where required.
“Just as this virus is new to scientists and clinicians around the world, it is also new to the social care sector. They, like us, are having to learn, adapt and improve our response as our understanding grows. That includes increasing the level of clinical oversight and practice expertise that we provide to ensure the welfare of residents and staff during this pandemic.”
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