Grieving family devastated over untested hospital patients discharged into EK care home

By Nicola Findlay

A grieving family say shocking new figures which reveal how many patients were discharged from hospital untested for Covid into care homes is a "devastating" blow in their battle for justice.

Mary McNamee, 89, died at Whitehills Care Home in East Kilbride, operated by Thistle Healthcare, at the height of the pandemic last year.

And new figures revealed following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the BBC show for the first time that five out of nine patients were discharged into Whitehills untested between March 1 and May 31 last year.

The care home tragically saw 22 deaths in the first three months of the pandemic.

Statistics from Public Health Scotland (PHS) reveal that thousands of elderly people who no longer needed to be in hospital were discharged into many of the country's care homes - more than half of whom hadn't been tested for Covid.

Only on April 21 did it became mandatory for hospital patients to have two negative Covid tests before being discharged, and for all new care home admissions to be isolated for 14 days.

Of the 58 people discharged into care homes in the East Kilbride area in the first three months of the pandemic, 27 were untested.

Mary's family say they are devastated by the latest figures (East Kilbride News)

And Mary's family, from Hamilton, believe that the trust they placed in the management of Whitehills was "completely broken".

One of her granddaughter's told Lanarkshire Live: "What we have learned about untested patients being discharged into the home is horrendous. My gran had no chance at all - she was bedridden. We are all absolutely devastated.

"We trusted the home when we were told it was the safest place for my gran.

"The family tried to get our gran home and we are horrified that the home agreed to take untested patients from hospitals. Someone has to be held accountable.

"My gran mattered and is not just a statistic. Those in charge and the government clearly didn't 'follow the science' as has been stated - everyone was well aware of the consequences of cross-contamination.

"We should have had the option to take my gran home when requested."

MSP Monica Lennon (PA)

Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who reported Whitehills to the Care Inspectorate, said: "Someone needs to take responsibility for playing Russian Roulette with the lives of people in Whitehills Care Home.

“In the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic I called for an urgent investigation into Whitehills Care Home, where 22 people had tragically died from the virus by the end of May 2020.

"Despite me raising it in Parliament and through Freedom of Information requests, NHS Lanarkshire and the Scottish Government refused to say how many untested and Covid-positive people had been placed in Whitehills Care Home.

“They need to be honest about why these dangerous practices happened at Whitehills Care Home, or any other care home, and why it was kept a secret for so long. Care home owners must explain their actions too. The families deserve justice."

The Care Inspectorate visited Whitehills Care Home on May 27 last year and said the home had "good infection prevention and control procedures in place" and staff were "knowledgeable in use of PPE" despite a "significant outbreak" of Covid in the home.

A spokeswoman for Whitehills Care home previously said that Mary was a "much-loved resident" and "staff were deeply saddened at her death".

She added: “Throughout the pandemic we have consistently and robustly followed the available guidance to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our residents and staff.

“Indeed, our infection control procedures and high standards of hygiene have been endorsed by the Care Inspectorate and we would welcome the opportunity to contribute to any inquiries into Covid-19.”

The home operator were contacted for comment in regards to the figures over untested discharges from hospitals.

NHS Lanarkshire said "discharge arrangements for all patients to care homes were undertaken in line with the infection prevention and control measures" at the time.

They added that the health protection team has "worked closely with care homes to offer them support and ensure that all the extant infection prevention and control measures were in place throughout the pandemic.”

The Scottish Government confirmed an inquiry will start by the end of the year into the handling of the Covid pandemic - including deaths in care homes.

A Scottish Government spokesman added that the PHS analysis "found care home size is very strongly related to outbreaks and concluded there was no "clear statistical evidence that hospital discharges were associated with care home outbreaks."

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