Scottish Labour has declared that the SNP must be “held to account” over its handling of the pandemic in Scotland’s care sector after new figures revealed 123 Covid-positive elderly patients were knowingly discharged into care homes.
A new report from Public Health Scotland published today shows that between March 1st and May 31st, 123 elderly patients in the country were moved from hospitals into care homes after receiving a positive coronavirus test.
The figures also reveal that 3,061 untested patients were discharged from hospitals into care homes during that period, 112 of which remained untested even after the guidance on the issue changed on April 22nd.
Scottish Labour’s health and social care spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “The decision to move patients with Covid-19 into care homes was reckless and SNP ministers must be held to account for this Russian roulette strategy.
“The combination of knowingly transferring the virus into care homes and not bothering to test hundreds of other patients before moving them is unfathomable. It will be extremely distressing to impacted families to learn that Covid-19 positive patients were knowingly discharged from hospital to care homes.
“Covid-19 positive or untested patients should never have been discharged from hospital into care homes, but Scottish government guidance from March 13th left the door open for this to occur. The subsequent consequences for Scotland’s care home population is a national scandal.
“That’s why I have asked the Lord Advocate and Police Scotland to investigate how this happened, and it is right that a public inquiry is launched as soon as possible into the decisions made by the Scottish government.”
Scottish Labour has highlighted that 38% of care homes with one or more Covid-positive discharge experienced an outbreak, compared to only 13% for homes with no Covid-positive discharges.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon disputed the figure at a coronavirus press conference today and claimed the report showed that once factors such as the size of a care home were accounted for, discharging Covid patients had little effect on outbreaks.
During the early weeks of the pandemic, many hospitals discharged elderly patients into the community without Covid tests, or even after testing positive, in an effort to free up beds amid an influx of coronavirus patients.
It was later found that many of those patients “seeded” the virus into care homes. It has been estimated by the Office for National Statistics that as many as 30,000 care home residents in England and Wales may have died from coronavirus.
Care homes in Scotland have been particularly badly hit by coronavirus, with research from August showing that 47% of the country’s Covid deaths came from care homes, as opposed to 30% in England and 28% in Wales.
Sturgeon pledged earlier in the year to hold a formal public inquiry into the Scottish government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including its handling of the crisis in the country’s care homes.
A report by the Office for National Statistics in July showed that care homes that used private agency and bank staff saw significantly higher rates of coronavirus among both their patients and staff members.
The study, which covered a total of 9,081 care homes and nearly 300,000 residents, concluded that agency staff who worked in multiple homes, sometimes without statutory sick pay, helped spread the virus across different care homes.