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Good practice in care homes helped residents overcome COVID-19

There is heart-warming evidence that measures taken along with good practice can help to defeat the virus COVID-19.

Two residents Ron Houghton, aged 90, and Dorothy Passey, aged 87, known as Dot, had been placed into isolation after testing positive for the virus at Bentley House Care Centre in Atherstone, Birmingham.

But they returned "looking a million dollars" in time for VE Day to rapturous applause from carers.

Administrator Charlotte McKenna said: "This journey has been one massive roller coaster - from being scared, angry and anxious to emotional, amazed and proud, day in and day out.

Each day like a nightmare

"When we received the positive results, we were shocked and, on our knees, fearing the worst, expecting it to spread through the home like a flame thrower.

"Each day was a nightmare; not knowing what was to come in the next 24 hours. Ron and Dot continued to hang on in there but unfortunately one lady sadly passed away just after we had been given her positive result.

"On May 6, Ron and Dot were well enough to go back to their own rooms, just in time for VE Day, looking a million dollars. It was emotional to see them leave and they were also emotional to have kicked this virus and to be back to some form of normality.

"Our staff were obsessive about their PPE; changing it when moving from one room to another. This and the complete isolation has to be the key to the virus being contained.

"We are proud that we managed to contain it in the way that we did. It has gone, but it is important to remember that it could return. If it does, then we are ready. We have beaten it for now and we can do it again."

Measures taken

Explaining how they were able to do it and the measures put in place, Charlotte revealed: "In early April we had a handful of staff stricken with symptoms, but at this time testing was not available.

"COVID-19 isn’t the only illness around right now. With seasonal illnesses still amidst the community, the uncertainty became more and more, and judging symptoms became more of a guessing game.

"At this point we had taken the difficult but necessary decision to keep residents in their rooms, social distancing in the lounge areas could not be adhered to easily and if one person contracted the virus, then the others would also be at risk.

"We identified that we needed a plan to try and isolate if COVID-19 did come in. No-one had a raging cough, breathing difficulties or a temperature, these are the only symptoms that the testing was available for. We found the symptoms that we could see were nausea, tiredness, confusion and lack of appetite.

Isolation Unit

"On April 13 we set up our isolation unit, a 9-bed corridor shut off from the rest of the home - 8 beds for residents and one staff room. Eight staff incredibly volunteered to work on a ‘3 on, 3 off’ shift pattern, all day and night. They would enter and exit via the fire escape, not leaving for their whole 12-hour shift.

"Supplies were left outside the door and they were dressed from head to toe in full PPE: gowns, aprons, masks, visors, gloves.

"On April 15 we moved in Ron, Dot and two other residents who were generally not well. The next day all four were tested before two more were moved into isolation the next day. On the 22nd, our first result came back with two positive and two negative. Again, on that day we had 8 more tests done, one came back positive four days later, the others were negative. At this point, thankfully, testing was more readily available to us.

"Once we had set up our specialised unit, which has been commented on by Public Health England as being 'the best set up they have seen anywhere', we offered this to CCGs and social services.

"For now, everything is calm, it is not the homely home it used to be, staff are still in full PPE and residents are still not socialising together outside of their rooms.

Social distance visiting

"We have just started to put into place some social distancing visiting, so that family members can finally begin to see their loved ones again.

"It will be strictly 2m distance, masks and gloves worn by all and no more than 2 visitors at a time who will need to book a time slot. This will take place outside in the gardens and the visitors will not enter the home. It is time to let our residents see their families and vice versa, it is important for their mental wellbeing, but this is our opinion. Are we right? who knows."

Summary

The measures taken by management and staff at Bentley House Care Centre provide evidence of the key measures to be taken to combat the spread of COVID-19 in care homes. All residents suspected of having the virus were isolated and tested. A specialised isolation unit was set up and commended by Public Health England. According to the administrator staff were obsessive about their PPE; changing it when moving from one room to another. This and the complete isolation has to be the key to the virus being contained.

As a result of their efforts and good practice Ron and Dot survived their ordeal. Well done to all at Bentley House.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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