A care home has confirmed eight residents have died after showing coronavirus symptoms as it denied accusations of locking protective equipment away from staff.
Management at Castle View Care Home in Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, are facing accusations they “belittled” carers by telling them they were “overreacting and causing panic” by taking residents’ temperatures.
The care home operator HC-One said eight residents with confirmed or suspected coronavirus symptoms have died, and two other deaths are currently not linked to the virus.
In a letter to the Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie, the GMB’s regional secretary Gary Smith said that – at the start of the outbreak – protective face masks were “locked away by management, and staff were told they did not need to use them” – allegations strongly disputed by the care home operator.
HC-One said the allegations are “categorically untrue” and it is “well stocked” with PPE available to all staff.
GMB Scotland organiser Kirsty Nimmo added: “Further to the allegations of a surge in fatalities at the home, information passed to GMB makes serious claims of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) resources being withheld by managers, shortages of essential nursing staff, and bullying and harassment of staff who question management over safety and process.”
Reacting to the letter from the GMB, Scottish Labour’s newly-elected deputy leader said: “My first thoughts are with the families that lost loved ones and the care workers who are trying to do all they can to keep residents safe.
“This letter raises serious concerns over the actions of management at Castle View Care Home, which may well have had tragic repercussions for residents and their families.
“It is vital that employers take the concerns of staff seriously at all times and, in this time of crisis, it is vital that care workers are listened to.
“Scottish Labour has continually called for the Scottish Government to do more to ensure all frontline workers get the PPE they need, but this shows that without employers sticking to the Government guidance lives can be endangered.
“Above all, it is clear that the owners of Castle View, HC-One, have serious questions to answer and the Care Commission need to investigate matters urgently.”
Responding to the claims, an HC-One spokesman said: “Our Castle View colleagues have worked tirelessly to keep our residents and each other safe throughout this outbreak, in exceptionally challenging circumstances and whilst risking their own health.
“We are therefore saddened that the inappropriate actions of politicians means they’ll go home tonight and feel like they have been used for political point scoring, and that their efforts have been questioned rather than championed in the media.”
He added: “The people who matter most to us, our residents and our colleagues, know that these allegations are categorically untrue.
“The home is well stocked with thousands of items of PPE that are available to all colleagues.
“Our home manager has been professional, effective and has treated the situation with the utmost seriousness throughout the outbreak.
“We have always had appropriate staff numbers on duty, including nurses. Our organisation has, and continues to provide, all possible support to our colleagues on the front line who are doing an exceptional job every single day.”
A spokesman for the Care Inspectorate added: “We are aware of the tragic deaths of residents at this care home as a result of suspected cases of Covid-19.
“Our thoughts are with the loved ones of those affected as well as the staff and wider community of the home.
“We have been notified of the circumstances and we are in contact with the care service and the local health and social care partnership during this difficult time.”