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Committee inquiry on COVID in care homes offers significant challenges, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said the Health Committee inquiry on COVID-19 in care homes offers significant challenges for the management of the pandemic and for adult social care reform.

The South Belfast MLA was speaking after an Assembly debate, approving the report of the Committee on the inquiry and calling for the Health Minister to implement its recommendations.

“The Committee inquiry rightly focuses on the huge difficulty and grief caused to people in care homes and their loved ones, who had such limited contact throughout the pandemic, often causing residents of care homes to feel abandoned. This, occurring alongside the general confusion of the pandemic, caused significant stress, anxiety and concern,” said Ms Bradshaw.

“It is essential we also pay tribute to care home staff, who have worked in such a dedicated fashion in the most difficult possible circumstances. We need to do far more to show they will never again be undervalued.

“The report demonstrates an underfunded and unreformed adult social care system is no longer viable. We also need to reflect the authorities were at times far too slow to get ahead of the virus, and to recognise its effect on the most vulnerable in society going beyond just the impact of the virus itself – the slowness in implementing testing in care homes was just one example raised in the inquiry.

“It is vital now we reflect on the role of the sector, and on the terrific work of Patricia Shepherd and the independent health and care providers, as we pledge to respond more quickly to the challenges faced by care homes in the coming months, and to reform the system so it is more viable and more valued in future.”

Her Alliance colleague Stewart Dickson MLA added the report highlighted “incredibly important and systemic issues” which needed to be addressed immediately.

“Every one of the people who has died in this pandemic is an immeasurable loss. The response to it has been unacceptable, and we must start the work of working out what went wrong and making sure this cannot ever happen again.

“Unfortunately, history has shown us reform within the Department of Health has proven to be complex, and take considerable time, so it is vital we start the process now, to save lives, and ensure the well-being and safety of our care home residents and staff.”