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A care home owner has described the anguish of staff after four residents died from suspected Covid-19 and how he’s spent an extra £100,000 trying to protect his homes since the pandemic started.

Mark Bailey, the managing director of Fairways Care said the outbreak was inflicting a massive “emotional toll” and he fears the huge financial pressures caused by the coronavirus crisis will force many of the smaller care providers out of business.

The company, which has five homes in Conwy, Gwynedd and Anglesey, looks provides care for 240 people and employs 400 staff.

There have been five Covid-19 cases at one of the households at the Tŷ Cariad Dementia Care Centre in Abergele, and four of the residents had sadly passed away.

Meanwhile, three residents at the Fairways Nursing Home, in Trearddur Bay, on Anglesey, had displayed symptoms.

Mr Bailey said: “It’s not like being in a hospital where you look after somebody for a few days.  In nursing and care homes, they’re really very genuine relationships that are built.

“So for the staff who work in Tŷ Cariad in Abergele in the household where we had Covid and lost half our clients, the staff are close to these people and love these people.

“There’s been lots of tears and upset. We have been providing the staff with access to counselling but the staff are devastated.

“It’s taken a huge emotional toll and the pandemic has also caused extra financial costs which are going through the roof.

“Protecting our residents and our staff is our first priority so we have spent a fortune on PPE – including £60,000 on masks, £3,500 on sanitiser and £2,000 on thermometers.

“We’ve also had extra staffing costs so in total, so far, we have spent an additional £100,000 and counting.

“Even before all of this began, we’ve complained repeatedly to the local health board and the local social services that the staffing levels they pay for aren’t the staffing levels we provide.

“The funding model they use for dementia care allows for 28 hours of care per client per week.  We can’t provide good care on 28 hours so we tend to be about 20 per cent higher than that to provide good care.

“But that’s not recognised by anybody and it’s never been recognised by anybody and that’s the way the in which the sector has been strangled over many, many years.

“At Tŷ Cariad,  we operate semi-autonomous households and the staff have done a fantastic job in ensuring that the outbreak has remained in just one household. The occupancy in the affected household is down to 50 per cent.”

According to Mr Bailey, the social care sector was in a fragile state before the outbreak hit and says that many care and nursing homes will be pushed over the brink.

He said: “The smaller homes are particularly  vulnerable and that vulnerability is down to years of neglect and chronic under-funding.

“It strikes me that the NHS is the national religion and nursing homes have traditionally been the national bogeyman.

“The one-off £500 payment to staff is a welcome recognition of our fantastic staff on the front line but this can only be a first step,

“What the Welsh Government, local authorities and health boards really need to do is to fund social care properly so that it is possible to pay the staff what they really and that it is built into the way fees are calculated.

“If they do not ensure a realistic funding model for social care, the £500 payment will be an empty gesture because many care homes will go out of business.”

It’s a concern shared by Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales which represents more than 450 independent social care providers.

He said: “There are 20,000 beds in social care and 12,000 beds in hospitals in Wales, nearly double the beds in social care. It should tell you it’s important the sector is. If social care fails to function, the whole lot comes tumbling down.

“The Welsh Government has promised £40 million to be distributed via local councils. It can only be a first instalment because that’s not going to cover it at all and we’re not confident that all of that money is going to reach the front line.

“The major issue in the long term is occupancy. Even in normal times it needs to be above 90 per cent for care homes to survive and remain financially viable.

“Below that and you’re in trouble. If it falls below 85 per cent you’re heading towards closure because the sums do not add up.

“The coronavirus pandemic has caused the perfect storm, with income in freefall and costs soaring.

“While the £500 one-off payment is welcome, the Welsh Government are going to have to do a lot more to ensure the survival of the sector in the long term.

“The First Minister has himself said the sector was in a fragile state going into this crisis and that’s as a direct result of the policies being followed by local councils and local health boards across  Wales for the past 20 years.

“We cannot have essentially 29 variations on a theme with council and health boards adopting different approaches to social care we need a strategic plan for Wales in which health and social care policy is properly integrated.

“Without an urgent action plan, we’re facing the prospect of up to half the care homes in Wales closing within the next year. It would turn the coronavirus catastrophe into an even worse national disaster.”

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