Owl has previously posted a cry of anguish from someone deeply affected by the treatment of loved ones during the closure of the Shandford Care Home in Budleigh and their fears for the future.
Now, with great sadness, Owl feels it in the public interest to post to post another. This time it is from local Independent Councillor Dr Cathy Gardner who articulates the anger of many at the cause of the loss of her father in an Oxfordshire Care Home.
Owl extends deepest sympathy to Dr Gardner and to all those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.
Owl’s next post is on an exclusive Reuters review that contradicts Boris Johnson on claims he ordered early lockdown at UK care homes. (Following Keir Starmer during this week’s Prime Minister’s questions)
The daughter of a man who died with suspected coronavirus has told Sky News she wants to know who signed off on a government policy to allow untested COVID-19 patients to be sent to care homes, potentially spreading the virus.
Dr Cathy Gardner says she fears the policy could have been a factor in the death of her 88-year-old father Michael Gibson, who passed away in a care home in Oxfordshire on 3 April.
She has described the government’s discharge policies as “irresponsible”.
Dr Gardner said: “I think the government guidance that hospitals implemented to discharge people as rapidly as possible into care homes full of vulnerable people was incredibly irresponsible… I think it was an unbelievable act and they need to be held accountable for that.”
The original advice the government gave regarding the discharge of patients to care homes said: “Negative tests are not required prior to transfers/admissions into the care home.”
The policy was changed as of 15 April to say: “We can now confirm we will move to institute a policy of testing all residents prior to admission to care homes.
“This will begin with all those being discharged from hospital and the NHS will have a responsibility for testing these specific patients, in advance of timely discharge.
“Where a test result is still awaited, the patient will be discharged and pending the result, isolated in the same way as a COVID-positive patient will be.”
The Department of Health and Social Care’s strategy was to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.
Mr Gibson, who had advanced Alzheimer’s, was a resident at the Cherwood House Care Centre in Oxfordshire, a place which Dr Gardner said looked after her father with great kindness.
She said that staff told her a COVID-positive patient was discharged back to the home in mid-March.
Sky News understands the care home felt pressured to take the resident back and were told the patient “hadn’t had a temperature for 48 hours”.
Cherwood House have said they weren’t given any guarantees the patient wasn’t still infectious, and said taking back the COVID-positive resident was “one of several possibilities” which could have caused Mr Gibson’s death.
Dr Gardner, who is an independent councillor in Devon, has a degree in microbiology and a PhD in the airborne spread of infection through the respiratory tract.
She said: “Coronavirus is so easily spread. The government knew the risks. It’s so easily carried around even when people are doing their best the risk is so great. At a time when over-70s and vulnerable people were being told to stay at home.”
Dr Gardner said she would like to see a public inquiry into the government’s social care and hospital discharge policies leading up to and during the pandemic.
She said: “I hold the PM and the government responsible for the policy. It’s got HM Government on the top of it. Whoever wrote it originally, whoever signed it off for publication must be held responsible for the consequences.”
In life, Mr Gibson was a registrar registering the births, deaths and marriages of others.
Dr Gardner said it was a sad irony that the precise cause of her father’s death will never be known because of the lack of testing in care homes.
She said: “My father’s GP was extremely good. She really suspected that patients dying like my father were infected with coronavirus and she put ‘probable COVID-19‘ on the death certificate.
“It seems such a shame after what he did for a living that his own death certificate isn’t accurate. Because he was never tested and no samples were taken after death to confirm the diagnosis or not of coronavirus.
“It’s only recorded on his death certificate as probable.”
Dr Gardner said: “It’s difficult to deal with the loss of my father at the same time as understanding the background to his death because you’re always angry when you’re grieving anyway.
“To know that this might have played a factor and the government might have contributed directly to my father’s death is almost unbelievable. It’s so difficult to get my head around it. It makes me extremely angry.”
David Isaac is chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is currently considering whether human rights laws have been breached in discharging patients into care homes.
He told Sky News that the commission was “sympathetic in relation to the challenge in resources and how priorities have to be made”.
“But equally we think discharging without testing into care homes is high risk and poses substantial risk to those in those care homes who are people with underlying health conditions and often are very isolated and are not in close contact with their families.
“So talk to us, be mindful of those issues and work with us to come up with a solution. The reality is if that doesn’t happen, we’ll have to look very carefully at how we exercise our legal powers to ensure that government and local authorities are actually meeting their obligations.”
Sky News put Dr Gardner’s concerns to the Department for Health and Social Care, and are waiting to hear back from the government.