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Senior, 95, survives coronavirus

The daughter of a 95-year-old care-home patient who tested positive for the coronavirus said her mother had recovered from the potential killer bug against the odds.

Lesley Marshall explained her mother, Barbara Fountain, already suffered from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among other problems, but developed no symptoms of Covid-19.

Mrs Marshall told The Royal Gazette: “She was just the absolute case that you would think would not stand a chance.

“I was just resigned to the fact that I would not see her again. That's really difficult.

“In other countries, as we have seen, people's family members are just dying alone. But my mother is still there and has now tested negative twice.”

Mrs Fountain was one of 11 residents of Westmeath Residential and Nursing Home in Pembroke found to have the coronavirus after mass screening at the home in April.

Three more patients tested positive in May.

Westmeath had 17 positive tests for the coronavirus among residents and staff, including two patients who died of Covid-19.

A total of 12 patients and three staff recovered and the home has now been declared “outbreak over” by the Ministry of Health, along with four other homes hit by the coronavirus.

Mrs Marshall, a member of Westmeath's board of trustees, said her mother was one of four very elderly women in the life-care unit at the home who tested positive, were asymptomatic and recovered, along with others in the residential unit.

She highlighted that the Ministry of Health was able to turn around other Covid-19 test results inside five hours, as it did for passengers who flew into Bermuda on a charter flight from Canada last month

But she said families desperate to hear the retest results for their elderly relatives — whom they have been unable to visit for months due to pandemic restrictions — had far longer waits.

Mrs Marshall added: “My mother tested positive on April 22. She then had to wait several weeks for a retest, which was negative, and until June 17 for the second retest, finally getting the all-clear around June 24.

“I don't understand why it took so long. It was extremely difficult for family members to have to wait all those weeks for the results.”

She said being unable to see her mother had been very upsetting, particularly as communication by phone or internet was difficult because she was deaf.

She praised Westmeath staff for everything they had done to make the situation “manageable”, including arranging drive-bys to allow residents to see loved ones and using FaceTime.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, was asked at a press conference on June 11 about the time frame for retests at the seniors homes.

She said: “They are testing between the 14-day period. So if they tested them today, for example, then they are retesting them prior to the conclusion of that 14 days.”

But retest dates released by the ministry for the five homes affected by Covid-19 showed it was not always done inside 14 days.

Retesting at Westmeath was done on May 19, June 6 and June 17. The Matilda Smith Williams Seniors Residence in Devonshire, which had 28 coronavirus cases, including the death of a resident, was first tested on April 13 and 14.

Retesting was done there on April 28, May 26, June 5, June 19 and June 26.

The ministry did not provide a breakdown of how many positive cases were staff and how many were patients at Matilda Smith Williams.

The other three homes affected by Covid-19 each had one case involving a resident. The ministry has not named them.

Those homes were first tested in early May, retested at the end of that month and then again last month. A health ministry spokeswoman said: “We keep testing until all the positives turn to negatives.”

She explained: “Experience with the care homes demonstrated that the residents did not convert from positive to negative in 14 days.

“Hence the residents in the senior residential care homes were not retested until 21 days or more after testing positive at the initial testing.”

The spokeswoman added: “There is not just one retesting requirement that is applied universally. Generally, it is 14 days. However, for specific outbreak situations, decisions on retesting will be made on a case-by-case basis.”

The spokeswoman said that, dependent on results, “care homes were retested until there were two consecutive Covid-19 negative test results from all residents and elders that were obtained not less than 24 hours apart”.

“The outbreak care homes were retested two to five times until the desired result was obtained and the care home declared ‘outbreak over'.”

She said the time it took to provide the results for the second retest “varied, but generally were provided within 24 hours of receipt, but often sooner”.

Ms Wilson was asked on June 11 if the care homes that had Covid-19 infections could now admit new patients or restart their daycare programmes.

She replied: “Oh absolutely, if they have the space.”

Only one of the affected homes had completed the retesting and been declared “outbreak over” on June 11. The unnamed home had its final retests done on June 4. The ministry spokeswoman said on June 28: “There have not been any new admissions into the outbreak care homes.

“However, residents that were residing in the care home at the time of the outbreak and were hospitalised would be readmitted to the care home.

“They will be placed in quarantine for 14 days upon readmission. Admissions into the care homes can begin once the care home has been declared ... ‘outbreak over'.”

The five homes had 47 cases between them, including a staff member who worked at Westmeath and Matilda Smith Williams, and was included in both their totals.

The spokeswoman said there had been no Covid-19 positive tests in the care homes since June 6. The health ministry said the oldest Covid-19 survivor was aged 101.

Beating the odds: Barbara Fountain, left, recovered from having the coronavirus while at Westmeath Residential and Nursing Home. Her daughter, Lesley Marshall, is member of Westmeath's board of trustees

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Published July 07, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 07, 2020 at 10:27 am)

Senior, 95, survives coronavirus

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