Residents at the Garden Court sheltered housing complex in Rothschild Rd in Chiswick were alarmed when an ambulance arrived last week, returning one of the people who lives there after he’d been treated for Covid-19 at Charing Cross hospital. One of the residents, who witnessed his arrival, told The Chiswick Calendar that the hospital transport crew, wearing protective clothing, asked if they could drop him off in the communal lounge area of the sheltered accommodation, as his room was locked and he didn’t have his keys. They told the residents he was Covid-19 positive.
Another resident, Bill, asked them to stay outside until they could get hold of Careline, who manage the property on behalf of Ealing Council. Although the block of flats is ‘sheltered’ and has 40 residents over the age of 60, there is no warden on site. Careline took an hour to come, according to Bill. He and his neighbour were shocked that there appears to have been no communication or arrangement made for the man’s reception or care management.
When eventually they arrived and the transport crew brought him in, they disinfected their vehicle before they left and the Careline worker, himself wearing Personal Protective Equipment, settled the man in his room, but no attempt was made to clean the public area through which he’d passed to get to his flat.
Covid-19 positive man ‘found wandering the corridors’
A further complication is that the patient apparently suffers from dementia. Government advice is that patients who are returning from hospital having been treated for the virus should remain in self-isolation, but it’s unclear whether this man is capable of understanding that. He has carers coming in and out, but most of the time is there on his own.
His neighbours’ anxiety was increased when one of them found him wandering the corridors with his trousers round his ankles on the evening of Friday 10 April. The Chiswick Calendar has been sent a picture of him holding his stick in one hand and holding on to the communal handrail with the other.
“I contacted our housing officer twice before the Easter weekend, in office hours, and to this day (16 April) she has not responded to me. Her boss wouldn’t confirm this man had been treated for the Coronavirus because it was ‘confidential information’, but she assured me he couldn’t leave his room because he was unable to get out of bed” said the resident we first spoke to.
Response from Ealing council ‘disappointing’
‘The response from the neighbourhood manager for the Acton hub took hours and was really disappointing’ said Bill. ‘More concerned with the patients confidentiality than the fact he has a deadly virus and ignoring the safety of the other 38 residents within this Scheme, most of whom are very vulnerable’.
In fact the Secretary of State for Health has issued four notices under the health Service Control of Patient Information Regulations 2002 requiring local authorities to share data about patients with Covid-19. ‘For patients, this means that their data may be shared with organisations involved in the response to coronavirus (COVID-19), for example, enabling notification to members of the public most at risk and advising them to self-isolate’.
Having seen him in the communal space, the residents are now “terrified” that they will catch it, the neighbour told us. They are “too afraid to leave their rooms”. Bill and a friend have been wiping down the handrails, door knobs and keypads regularly with disinfectant. He called a meeting a month ago, at which residents put their questions regarding Covid-19 to the council.
“We haven’t heard anything back from it. We haven’t even had the minutes of that meeting. You’d think in a global pandemic preparations would be made. I called that meeting because we know that if Covid-19 gets a hold in here, 75% residents could die. We have people who have heart conditions, who’ve had strokes, cancer, you name it”.
He asked the council for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), to carry on doing the cleaning, without success. “We haven’t seen our so-called housing officer for a month. Eventually last week we got a few cloths and a few things of Flash given to us”.
Bill and his neighbours have also seen the man’s carers leave items such as waste from his room left in the communal trash and communal laundry. Some of his carers have been wearing PPE, but others not, they say, and those that have been wearing the kit have disposed of it in the communal waste. “There are bits of apron left there and no other carers use that particular room”.
Case raises important questions
As they are unable to trust that he will self-isolate, they have asked Ealing Council to remove him so that they and he will be safer. They have involved both local councillors and MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Rupa Huq. As we spoke on Thursday (16 April) the residents were expecting that he would be removed, but the response from the council, communicated to the residents via their MP, has been that he ‘does not meet the threshold’ for them to take out a legal injunction to make that happen.
Amid mounting criticism of the Government over the way management of the Coronavirus has been handled in care homes, Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted at the ministerial briefing on Wednesday that ministers had been “taking action” to protect care home residents from the start of the crisis. Care providers have been calling for more testing for weeks, amid outbreaks at more than 2,000 homes.
This case in Chiswick begs the questions:
Why was there no arrangement made between the hospital and the local authority for the return of someone with Covid-19 to sheltered housing accommodation?
Why have the residents been fobbed off by council officers with assurances that this man is self-isolating when they know he isn’t?
Why is there not someone on site to help in this emergency?
Why is he not being moved to somewhere equipped to deal with people who don’t have the mental capacity to understand self-isolation?
Will he now be re-tested to put the other residents’ mind at rest?
We have contacted the council for a response to those questions.
Cllr Andrew Steed, in whose ward Garden Court is located, told The Chiswick Calendar:
“One appreciates that we are going through an exceptionally difficult time for the NHS and the Council, but this episode raises many questions. How is it that an elderly person with known mental health issues can be delivered to Sheltered Housing with no forward planning or co-ordination with the result that residents are left to manage the situation? The Council accepts that the on-going care of the resident was unacceptable, what assurances can the Council provide that steps have been taken to ensure this does not happen again’?
Garden Court resident Bill told us:
‘It would seem there are no emergency measures in place to protect residents during this crisis. So if something serious happens, sort the mess out yourselves is the message’.