Third of West Suffolk care homes hit by coronavirus outbreak
A third of care homes in West Suffolk have been hit by coronavirus, government figures show.
Statistics released by Public Health England show across the district there has been Covid-19 outbreaks at 12 of West Suffolk's 36 care homes - meaning 33 per cent of homes have suffered an outbreak.
And in East Cambridgeshire 29 per cent of its care homes have reported outbreaks of the virus. The data does not show if outbreaks are ongoing.
Visits to care homes from families and friends have significantly reduced during the lockdown in order to protect vulnerable residents, while inspections by the Care Quality Commission have been paused for most residences.
But separate figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal more than a fifth of coronavirus-related deaths in England and Wales up to April 24 had occurred in care homes.
Suffolk County Council, which has responsibility for adult social care in West Suffolk but does not run any care home facilities, said more than 600 people had been tested so far in homes in the county since mid-April.
Cllr Beccy Hopfensperger, cabinet member for adult care, said the council is standing "shoulder to shoulder" with care providers.
"We are in daily contact with providers to support them and respond to their needs and concerns. We have provided a package of financial support that includes a minimum payment guarantee as well as advance payments to enable providers to stay operational even when faced with staff absence," she said.
"The county council and health partners are providing dedicated infection prevention and control support through a dedicated support line for infection advice, Personal Protective Equipment questions and to request testing for residents with symptoms."
Cllr Hopfensperger, who also serves on West Suffolk Council, added: "Care homes and providers are doing an incredible job to protect their residents and staff and control the spread of infection where is arises. They are following the latest guidance issued by Public Health England and government for the correct use of PPE such as face masks, visors, goggles, gloves, and aprons.
"They are practicing social distancing wherever possible, and where it is not, due to the task being carried out, PPE is in use and of course, hygiene practices are being followed throughout care homes."
Care homes in West Suffolk have fared better than others in Suffolk. In Ipswich 71 per cent of homes have suffered a coronavirus outbreak, with 55 per cent in Mid Suffolk and 43 in East Suffolk.
Cllr Hopfensperger said the county council-led Suffolk Resilience Forum had set up a PPE centre which is providing emergency supplies. "So far we have supplied 219 organisations with PPE and every care provider who has asked for support has received it," she said.
The Labour group at the county council last week called for an immediate investigation after it was revealed that Suffolk had double the number of Covid-19 related deaths in care homes than its neighbours in Norfolk or Cambridgeshire.
Cllr Helen Armitage, Labour's spokesman for health and adult care, said: "Too many people are tragically losing their lives to Covid-19 in Suffolk’s care homes so the county council must respond appropriately to protect residents and staff."
More by this authorDan Barker
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