Carers plead for coronavirus safety equipment amid resignations and price gouging

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Carers have been demanding protection (file photo)

AN URGENT public plea has been made to help provide vital protective equipment for carers and key workers on the frontline of the battle against the coronavirus.

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Care homes have reported shortages of masks and visors, with prices rising and some workers resigning in fear for their safety as stocks run low.

BCP Council leader Cllr Vikki Slade made an “urgent” plea for supplies, saying they had become “increasingly hard to source” for non-care employees such as waste collection teams.

Hythe-based Hants Healthcare, which makes homecare visits on the Waterside, also turned to the public for help after running short of visors.

Manager Alice Willis said two members of the team had resigned at the end of March over fears they might contract the virus while working. Three others are self-isolating due to the lack of full personal protective equipment (PPE) clothing.

Within days of posting a request on its Facebook page on Saturday afternoon, about 30 visors were received for the 30-strong team of carers – including one offer of swimming goggles.

“It’s been amazing with people getting in touch,” Ms Willis told the A&T. “We’ve been in-undated with offers, with people also offering aprons and gloves.

“We already have the aprons and gloves – it’s the face protection that’s the issue.”

Ms Willis criticised a “flaw” in government guidance which means her carers do not currently wear protective masks when dealing with all of their clients.

“What the government are saying about the masks, which I strongly disagree with, is that they’re only to be used when someone has Covid-19. But how do you know if someone has Covid-19?

“Potentially, I could go in as a carer and pass it on to one of my clients. Maybe someone we go to see – one of their families could have it but not be showing symptoms and we’re going in without masks.”

She echoed the call of other care providers for coronavirus testing to be rolled out for carers and their clients.

Even with the masks, gloves and aprons, she was concerned staff could be spreading the virus as they did not have full-body protection. Anyone who can donate visors is asked to email info@hantshealthcare.co.uk

At Oak Tree Lodge in Ashurst, manager Sarah Lucy said it had been forced to order facemasks from an online supplier and had been shocked by a £100 bill for just 40. She criticised those taking advantage of the situation.

It received a donation of 30 masks from Ashurst and Colbury parish councillor Mike Thomas who urged people to check their garages for any PPE equipment they might have.

He said: “Everyone has been talking about hundreds of thousands of masks needed by the NHS. But because they are not part of the NHS procurement system, the care homes have to fend for themselves – this could be devastating for them.

“The key thing is that lots of people might have these sort of things unused in a dark corner of their garage, as well as in any workshops.”

Mrs Lucy thanked Mr Thomas for his donation but stressed the home had received 300 masks from the local NHS group of GPs, and another 300 from its usual supplier on Monday.

Oak Tree Lodge currently cares for 18 residents, and Mrs Lucy praised her team of 24 staff for their efforts looking after them and maintaining morale.

She added: “Ideally, if everybody could be tested we would all know where we stand, but I understand that is not really practicable.”

Mrs Lucy told the A&T there have been no suspected cases of coronavirus at the home.

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