Ilford care home residents put at risk claims daughter

Mick Ferris
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An Ilford care home that has so far had no coronavirus cases was made to house a hospital patient who had not been tested for the disease.

Birchwood Residential Care Home on Clayhall Avenue is home to many elderly people, including 96-year-old Jean Buniak, a former WWII volunteer.

The care home is understood to have received two patients – one on April 8 who had recovered from coronavirus but returned to hospital the next day and another on April 15, who was not tested.

Jean’s daughter, Helen, claimed staff were unhappy about the move but were told by Redbridge Council that it was government policy.

Helen said: “Redbridge Council put huge pressure on the care home to take patients from hospital that have not been tested.

“As soon as you get one sick person in the door that virus is going to spread, however hard staff work to protect residents. You only need one person to make a mistake.

“Sending the virus into that home could endanger their lives and it’s absolutely shocking. My mum is among the most vulnerable, why isn’t the government shielding her?”

Jean “worked all her life to help other people”, according to her daughter, working for Redbridge libraries and volunteering for Age Concern and Barnardos charities up until the age of 94.

Helen said that she and all other residents at the home “deserve to enjoy what time they have left” but that Jean currently feels “like a sitting duck”.

She added that staff at the care home had worked “tirelessly” to protect residents, going into lockdown a week before it was ordered by the government.

The Department of Health repeatedly declined to comment on their policy, instead linking to documents that described it.

This included the Adult Social Care Action Plan, published on April 15, that explains patients should now be tested before moving into care homes but could be moved before the results came back.

This change was announced in the evening, after the untested patient had already been moved into the home.

In an email seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Redbridge Council’s director of public health and commissioning said that “very difficult decisions” had to be made due to the pandemic.

She said: “One of the ways to achieve the goal of making sure our NHS can support everyone through this virus pandemic, is to free up NHS beds by discharging patients who are medically safe for discharge from NHS inpatient care and who can be looked after in the community.

“With NHS need and demand so high, this can include patients who still require self-isolation and patients who are COVID negative or who are assessed to be no longer infectious.

“This is a national issue and we are doing all we can to address and make sure that COVID-19 infection prevention measures are adhered to in our care homes and across all our care environments; as well as support the national response effectively and robustly.”

She described a number of measures to protect care home residents and staff, including distribution of PPE, guidance and daily contact with Public Health England’s specialist health protection services where suspected cases are identified.

A spokesperson for the home’s parent company Sanctuary Care sought to reassure concerned families that new arrivals, including the patient moved in yesterday, would be isolated in their room for 14 days.

They said that it was “vital” to support the NHS, adding: “We can also offer reassurance that we continue to closely follow the detailed public health guidance being provided and are in regular contact with the Department of Health and Social Care – and other care operators – to share information and best practice.”


Mick Ferris

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