This is absolutely shocking witness testimony. It tells us:
Those of us who work in health and care have all dealt with death: it’s part of our job and we know it’s going to happen. But the coronavirus crisis has altered the dynamic. Over the past few months, the care home I work in has felt like death’s waiting room. We were told that even critically ill people would not be taken to hospital and we felt helpless as we lost nearly a third of our residents.
At the end of March, we received a man from the local hospital. I was doing my rounds with a nurse when we walked into his room and saw he had all the symptoms of coronavirus. We looked at each other and knew that this was just the start. All night, we shared our anxieties for our residents, our families and ourselves. It was the first time I had felt fear at work.
Within a week, the patient was moved downstairs to a high-security dementia unit because that was felt to be the most appropriate place for him. He had not been tested for Covid-19. Less than a week later, there were many people on the unit with fevers.
Soon, staffing levels began to drop because people were getting seriously ill. At least three members of staff were hospitalised for extended periods of time. There were times when we were at 50% staffing capacity. We still didn’t have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Whenever I raised the issue in team meetings, I was snapped at.
We weren’t tested before or after the lock-in. The PPE we had was still not adequate. We had dust masks and gloves with no eyewear. At one point, management sent out a text asking if anybody had any spare bed sheets that could be fashioned into washable gowns.
The lock-in served no purpose. Coronavirus was still present in the care home, and more staff became ill.
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has since said that care homes were to blame for the UK’s high death toll. To make such a claim after thousands of us put our lives on the line to protect our residents is devastating. We are care workers; our job is hard but we do it for our residents. But things need to change.