A social care leader is urging people not to not to visit relatives living in care homes unless it’s “absolutely essential” so they can protect their loved ones from coronavirus.
Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, said care homes were “safe havens” for elderly and vulnerable people so it was vital to ensure the highest possible standards of infection control.
Mr Kreft, who also owns eight care homes in Wrexham and Caernarfon, is also calling on health boards to cut bureaucracy so that older patients who no longer need hospital care can be transferred to care homes.
Expediting that process would help free up hospital beds and allow the discharged patients to receive care in a more appropriate setting.
He said Care Forum Wales was in regular contact with Welsh Government health experts and they were passing on the latest scientific advice to their 400 plus members across Wales.
Mr Kreft said: “In my organisation, Pendine Park, we’re already significantly reducing the number people entering homes and we’ve introduced washing stations outside each of them.
“We’ve got to do everything that we can to ensure that people are safe, and I would say this to anybody who wants to visit a loved one in a care home to think very, very carefully because totally accidentally this virus could be transmitted.
“Simply put, not visiting care homes is likely to save people’s lives.
“I think it’s very important that we recognise that care homes will be a safe haven.
“There has been a lot of talk about cocooning people. It makes a lot of sense as a principle to use our care homes.
“There are over 20,000 people in care homes in Wales and over 500,000 in the UK.
“We need to ensure that those organisations are properly supported to do the job that they’re there to do and that is to protect and safeguard the people that they care for, and their staff.
“The other important thing now is to make sure that we get as many people into the sector where there is capacity.
“It is important to relieve pressure on the NHS which is already pretty much at capacity.
“The message from Care Forum Wales is that we have to ensure that we make the room that is needed in our NHS.
“People should be moved to care homes because they are relatively safe places and they will be well cared for.
“It is vital that we reduce the bureaucracy to a bare minimum. Putting paper work ahead of the people’s lives cannot be tolerated in an emergency situation like this.
“We need to learn from the Italian experience in terms of increasing capacity in our health care system.
“I think all of the evidence is suggested that we need to push this epidemic back as far as we can so that the NHS will be able to cope and so-called herd immunity is achieved in the wider population.
“If we’re not very careful and we don’t give this the planning that we need to, we’re going to be finding that these people are hugely at risk.
“By definition, the people in care homes and nursing homes are vulnerable because they have underlying problems.
“People in the community who receive domiciliary care are also vulnerable and often have respiratory problems.
“These people are the matriarchs and patriarchs of our communities across Wales and we must not be ageist in our approach in terms of prioritising resources.
“We need to do everything possible to protect our vulnerable people. It is our duty as a caring society to do that.”