MORE than 400 care homes looking after the frail and elderly may have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic as the infection sweeps through the sector, The National can reveal.

Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, which represents independent, private and charitable homes, gave his estimate to The National after a series of residential centres reported the deaths of multiple residents in recent days.

“Our conservative estimate would be that we believe that between 30% and 40% of care homes will possibly have a single case of confirmed or suspected [Covid 19] including staff and residents,” Macaskill said. “There are 1100 care homes.”

Macaskill added it was unclear in some cases how the patient had died as in many instances GPs were no longer going into homes to record the cause of death.“There is a lot of sensitively about the figures, but it is absolutely the case care homes have been profoundly affected by coronavirus,” he said.

“There is a risk of more [multiple deaths]. If the disease follows the pattern we have seen in the UK and abroad. These are individuals who are highly vulnerable and at risk.”

He added: “We are managing the virus extremely effectively but the virus has resulted in multiple tragic cases.”

Among the most shocking developments in the virus pandemic has been the way the virus has hit care homes.

Last month soldiers in Spain had to go into abandoned homes where they found bodies of residents in their beds who had perished from the virus without being cared for. Spanish prosecutors have launched an investigation.

Asked if such a situation could arise in Scotland, he said: “We are as sure as we can be that there will never be a situation where people would be abandoned and that staff would walk off.”

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There have been considerable concerns that staff are not getting the personal protective equipment they need. Macaskill said he believed this issue was being addressed but he wanted to see more testing of workers to ensure people were not staying at home unnecessarily.

Care homes last week recorded a staff absence level of 30% as many self-isolated or shielded at home. “We are really pushing for the prioritisation of care home staff and home care staff for testing. If we can test people who have been self-isolating we can get back people who may be at home. We really need staff in clinical nursing and end of life support,” he added.

“I’ve had a provider in Glasgow in tears on the phone trying desperately in the last 24 hours to get residents tested. And they can’t get that.”

Earlier this week it emerged Castle View in Dumbarton suffered eight deaths amid a Covid-19 outbreak, while the virus also claimed the lives of 13 people at the Burlington Care Home in Glasgow.

It has also been reported that nine residents have died at Tranent Care Home, East Lothian which has also been at the centre of a suspected coronavirus outbreak. Homes in Dundee and Lanarkshire have also reportedly experienced multiple deaths of residents.

The sector has also been hit by the deaths of two workers. Carer Catherine Sweeney, who worked in West Dunbartonshire, died on Friday last week, and Janice Graham, a NHS health care support worker and district nurse in Inverclyde, passed away on Monday.

On the same day, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged families not to remove their loved ones from homes. She said: “I wouldn’t advise people to take their loved ones out of a care home.

“The Care Inspectorate is working closely with care homes to support them as they manage this incredibly difficult situation.”

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