More than a hundred care home residents have died in Oldham with coronavirus listed on their death certificate.
Between March 22 and June 15, health and social care chiefs say that 106 deaths of care home residents connected to Covid-19 have occurred in the borough, with 25 residents dying in hospital with the virus.
A report to cabinet states that the largest number of deaths ‘believed to be Covid-19 related in a single home is 21’.
However chief clinical officer Dr John Patterson previously confirmed that 30 people had died at Chadderton Total Care Unit care home at Middlewood Court.
Office for National Statistics figures show there have been 221 COVID-19-related deaths in Oldham between March to the end of May.
The figures were presented as the cabinet agreed further financial support to subsidise empty beds in the borough’s 42 care homes – which could cost an extra £1.6m.
In normal times there is a four pc vacancy rate in care facilities, but during the pandemic this has risen to 15pc.
A report by Helen Ramsden, interim assistant director of joint commissioning states: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, the success of the ‘home first’ approach of the hospital discharge team, the (assumed) lack of appetite amongst the self paying market to move into care homes, and the number of excess deaths have combined to increase the vacancy factor almost four fold.”
The increasing numbers of empty beds in care homes has placed pressure on the viability of the homes to operate as residents die or families are unwilling to place their loved ones in the facilities.
Ms Ramsden states it is now ‘almost inevitable’ that the council will need to extend funding support for homes with a ‘financially unsustainable level of vacancies’.
Without support, this would be likely to trigger a ‘wave of closures’, she adds.
“While there is currently encouraging evidence that the number of deaths in care homes is falling, the number of vacancies is continuing to rise, and we cannot yet be confident about when and at what level it will peak, or how quickly (if at all) demand will recover,” her report states.
Bosses have now agreed to extend a policy of financially supporting providers whose occupancy has fallen below 90pc, through additional payments to subsidise the missing residents.
According to the report there are 26 homes with ten pc or more empty beds.
This occupancy guarantee has been extended until the end of July, with authority given to the director of adult social services to keep it going until the end of October – subject to reviews in the meantime.
This would ensure ‘sufficiency, sustainability and quality of supply of care services’.
While it is ‘difficult’ to predict the financial implications of the extension, a ‘worst case scenario’ based on the current situation continuing to the end of October would cost the authority £1.6m.
Ms Ramsden’s report also states that it is likely that carers will ‘remember this as a time when they were required to carry out dangerous and distressing work while getting little of the same recognition as NHS staff’.
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