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It comes after more than almost 2,000 elderly residents of care homes died during the first wave of coronavirus earlier this year. Scotland Health Secretary Jeane Freeman came under fire after she claimed it was “entirely right and proper” for patients to be discharged to the homes without first being given the all-clear under clinical guidance.
Under Government guidance, current policy states two negative tests are needed for a patient who was being treated for COVID-19 to be discharged into a care home.
Meanwhile, one negative test would be needed if they were dealing with another health problem.
However, Ms Freeman stressed this policy was not always followed and said clinicians had the power to discharge a patient to a care home without a negative test result in “exceptional circumstances”.
The SNP led Scottish Government has repeatedly come under fire for its handling of care homes during the pandemic.
A report released last month by Public Health Scotland found more than 100 people were discharged from hospital to care homes in the early part of the pandemic without first testing negative for coronavirus.
But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon disputed this claiming the report showed hospital discharges did not increase the likelihood of a coronavirus outbreak in care homes.
In answer to a parliamentary question from Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, the Health Secretary said the discharge should only be allowed if “it is in the clinical interests of the person to be moved”.
The Scottish Labour MSP accused the Health Secretary of “throwing doctors and social workers under the bus for following her guidance”.
She said: “People known to have COVID-19 should not be placed in care homes and Jeane Freeman must put a stop to this dangerous practice immediately before more lives are lost.
“Thousands of older and disabled people living in care homes have been forbidden from even talking to their loved one through the window, yet the Scottish Government is allowing residents to bring the virus through the back door.
“Too many lives have already been sacrificed. This must end today.”
Donald Cameron MSP, Scottish Conservative Health spokesperson, added: “When I heard the health secretary suggest people may be sent to care homes without getting a COVID-19 test, I was genuinely shocked.
“There were always going to be mistakes made in the first wave of this pandemic.
“Everyone accepts that. We were tackling a virus few people understood.
“What nobody will accept, or forgive, is that we don’t seem to have learned any lessons.
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“From what the SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said, she hasn’t learned much.
Mr Cameron accused the SNP of “dodging responsibility” and added: “Instead of stepping up and saying ‘yes, we got this wrong’, the SNP has evaded questions at every turn.
“The first time around, mistakes were unacceptable but they were also understandable. This time around, there is no longer any excuse.”
But Ms Freeman said the final decision would be made by health and social work professionals, adding it would not be appropriate for politicians to intervene.
Speaking to the BBC, she said: “If and where older people are being discharged from hospital into a care home or back into their own home without the two negative tests for coronavirus that we have in our policy position, that will be a clinical decision made by a clinical team and the social work team that are working with that elderly person and their family.
“It is entirely right and proper, I think, that clinicians who are experienced in elderly care and medical care and social work staff experienced in social work support for older people are the ones who will make the final decision.”
Ms Freeman sought to reassure those with concerns, saying this was an “exception” to the current rules.
She added: “The care homes themselves take serious responsibility about their infection prevention and control procedures, and do their very, very best to follow our guidance, with our support, on PPE and other matters.
“It is not right, and I don’t believe your viewers would expect, me as a non-medical, non-clinical politician to be intervening in that decision.”
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