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Pandemic could force closure of half of our care homes in Wales, warns social care leader

April 29, 2020

Care Forum Wales chair Mario Kreft has warned that half the care homes in Wales could be compelled to close unless urgent action is taken.

Many care homes were already having to take out loans and consider imminent closure because of spiralling costs and falling income. Mr Kreft said the sector was already fragile before the Covid-19 crisis began and the pandemic threatened to put many providers out of business. The scale of the problem, he said, was illustrated by the fact that Wales’ 650 care homes provided 20,000 beds which was 8,000 more that the number of beds in hospitals. He feared that mass care home closures would lead to the NHS being completely overwhelmed.

“We have members who are increasing their staffing costs and they’re increasing other costs like buying their own PPE,” said Mr Kreft. “And of course we’re seeing falling occupancy as people pass and as other homes choose not to admit people, because they’re terrified that it’s going to introduce the virus into those homes and obviously affect the residents they have.”

Mr Kreft most care homes needed to have 90% occupancy to be viable and anything below 85% was not sustainable – but some homes were down 25 to 30% occupancy.

“We have got people that are seriously talking to their banks, seriously talking within their organisation, whether the best thing and the safest thing for everybody is simply to close the doors,” he said.

“We’ve never, ever encountered anything quite like this in the history of the care sector in Wales, and the UK. Unless urgent support is forthcoming we will be seeing care home closures week on week over the summer months.”

Among those who is under severe pressure Glyn Williams, who runs the 28-bed Gwyddfor care home in Bodedern on Anglesey. In desperation Mr Williams has launched an online appeal to raise £33,000 towards the costs, fearing he will have to shut within the month.

“The simple truth is we are in dire straits as things stand,” said Mr Williams. “The welfare of our residents is vitally important; they are like our extended family, but we just can’t survive as we are so underfunded.”

Mr Kreft said the problem was that residents were vulnerable because most were elderly and all of them had underlying health problems.

“The £40 million in emergency funding promised by the Welsh Government should be a first instalment only because it is not enough to save the sector which was already chronically underfunded,” he said.

“To compound the problem, it is going to be distributed by local councils so I do not have confidence that all of it is going to reach the front line where it is desperately needed.

“The shortage of PPE remains a major concern as does the lack of a proper testing regime to screen staff and residents. It’s no wonder that many of our members feel they have been abandoned by the authorities because they sense there has been an acceptance about the inevitability of residents dying.

“Wales has very well run care homes with well trained staff who are heroically working on the front line but we are now in the midst of a perfect storm. It’s therefore vitally important for us to see the whole picture regarding loss of life so we can mitigate and sustain these vital community assets.”

Mario Kreft

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