‘I never thought it would happen at Westmeath’ – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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‘I never thought it would happen at Westmeath’

The worried daughter of a resident in a care home at the centre of a Covid-19 outbreak last night questioned why strict social-distancing was enforced only after a second staff member tested positive for the disease last week.

The woman said she spoke to her elderly mother by phone every day and was shocked to learn that residents at Westmeath Residential and Nursing Home, in Pembroke, were still eating their meals together in the dining room until April 14 — the day the second employee case was confirmed.

She also claimed her mother was not told that two staff members had contracted with the novel coronavirus and found out about them, and another resident who had tested positive, only when a Ministry of Health press release was read out on the TV news on Tuesday night.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said she warned her mother that Westmeath could have the virus, but that “she didn't want to believe me. I said: ‘you really need to stay in your room'. And she heard it on the news and she was so devastated.”

The daughter added: “She said: ‘I never thought it would happen at Westmeath because I thought they were protecting us'. She's frightened. I'm so helpless because I can't help her.

“I would be just out of my mind if she died prematurely because of this disease.”

The privately run home insisted yesterday it held a meeting for residents on April 13 to announce the first staff case and wrote to all families the same day.

The management said it was blindsided by the resident's positive result being publicised on TV on Tuesday before there was chance to tell everyone in the home and that it regretted any distress caused to residents and their relatives.

Barbara Lee, the chairwoman of Westmeath's board of trustees, said it was true that stricter social-distancing was implemented on April 14, with changes to the seating arrangements for mealtimes, but that guidance had earlier been given to residents.

Mrs Lee said: “We only have so much space.”

She added residents in the non-nursing section of the home made their own decisions and some decided to eat meals together in the dining room, despite requests to practise social-distancing.

Westmeath asked the Government to test everyone at the home after its first coronavirus case, a senior nurse, was identified on April 10.

A second positive case, involving a casual nurse who also worked at the Matilda Smith Williams Seniors Residence in Devonshire, also hit by Covid-19, was identified on April 14. But mass testing at the home did not start until Wednesday, after a resident got a positive test result two days earlier.

There was a total of 13 Covid-19 cases at Westmeath yesterday: 11 residents and two staff, with more results expected soon.

The daughter of the resident said she was angry with the Government and the home for not doing enough to protect residents.

She added: “For weeks, while all of Bermuda was on this social-distancing, since around March 17, I had been asking my mother had they instituted social-distancing in the dining room. There are 24 people in the residential section.

“The public was being told to social-distance, first three feet and then six feet away. My mother said: ‘nothing has changed'.”

The woman said her mother told her earlier this month that residents had not been given masks. She added: “Residents now have masks. You don't understand how livid I am.

“These are the most vulnerable people in our population and they don't have supplies of personal protective equipment for them. At the same time, I am critical of the Government.”

The woman said Cheryl Peek-Ball, the Chief Medical Officer, who earlier this week claimed there was no need to test everyone at Westmeath after the first case was identified, was “insulting our intelligence”.

She added: “Dr Cheryl Peek-Ball said it didn't pose a public health risk. She also said public health measures were taken. How does it warrant public health measures if it wasn't a public health risk?”

The woman said it was impossible for health officials to pinpoint when the first nurse became infectious because people without symptoms could pass on the virus.

She added: “The CMO can't say definitively where the virus is in the home.”

The senior nurse who first tested positive was at work on April 7 and four other managers were exposed to the virus through contact with her — details confirmed by the Government's own nurse epidemiologist in a letter to the home dated April 12.

Fiona Douglas, Westmeath's acting executive director, said that “information was also shared on the measures that were being taken in response to the confirmation and residents were given the opportunity to ask questions” at the April 13 meeting and that residents in the home's two other areas “who were able to understand the information” were also briefed.

Mrs Lee said the home found out about the resident's positive test Tuesday afternoon and was informing residents when the news was made public. She added: “The timing was horrible.”

The Ministry of Health sent out its press release to the media at 6.57pm that day.

Mrs Lee said the home's management was “horrified” that residents found out about the case from the media. She added the home was well stocked with PPE, but it had to consider how long the pandemic might last.

Mrs Lee said: “Everything we have done has been on the instructions of the Department of Health. We are doing it all on a minimal staff. We do as we are instructed and I think it would be hard to find another home that does as much.”

The home banned visitors on March 24, after a meeting with health officials.

Testing under way: Westmeath Residential and Nursing Care Home in Pembroke (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published April 25, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 25, 2020 at 7:32 am)

‘I never thought it would happen at Westmeath’

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