Will staff be more valued on the ‘always forgotten’ frontline?

Coronavirus crisis

by Colin Campbell                                                                                                              Thursday, April 23

INVERNESS care home staff – on the “forgotten frontline” – are working against the odds to make life as normal and tolerable as possible for residents during the current lockdown.

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Care home staff have long been undervalued and unappreciated.

 At one large city care home they are able to go out into private gardens and make the most of the sunshine and generally good weather which has been an April boon over the past couple of weeks.

 Extra activities are being organised within to keep old folk occupied during the current situation where all visits by family members have been halted. Residents are able to see and speak for a short time to their loves ones through an open door, provided the visitors stand at a distance of several yards from the building.

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Little praise and few plaudits in normal times for people who do the most challenging work.

 However, despite the restrictions, morale among both staff and residents is said to be reasonably good.

 Concerns over the provision of protective equipment remain, with office staff and other workers not directly dealing with patients being limited in the number of face masks made available to them. Ideally, these would be changed regularly, but the supply is as yet not available.

 Across the country hundreds of residents of care homes have died during the current crisis, with widespread concern that there was an unacceptable delay in providing homes with PPE.

 A care home worker told Inverness news and views: “Essentially we are working as normal, albeit in very different and difficult circumstances.”

 A number of staff are not at work and are in self-isolation. However, managers had the foresight to hire extra staff several weeks ago in anticipation of absences. One worker said: “We have colleagues who are in self-isolation, but there are others to replace them and staffing here is not a problem.”

 Belated concern over the multiple problems the coronavirus threat has brought to care homes has surfaced extensively in the past few days. But it is belated. Nursing home staff are used to being the undervalued and usually underpaid care workers whose efforts, in normal times, receive little praise or acknowledgement.

 While plaudits, rightly, are heaped on hospital staff, care workers operate in a sphere usually devoid of praise but often laid wide open to criticism.

 At one Inverness home, an incident involving verbal mistreatment of an elderly resident led to the two staff responsible being dismissed, and a full external inquiry being held. However, a relative of the elderly person concerned was not satisfied with the outcome, and continued to pursue the case through the media for nearly three years. As a result, the name of the home surfaced repeatedly in different newspapers – to the intense frustration of the staff there – long after the dismissals and the inquiry had, they believed, fairly and reasonably settled the matter.

 Care workers do extremely challenging work, currently and in normal times, and perform tasks which many people would not have the stomach for. But those now on “the forgotten frontline” – who are in reality forgotten most of the time, unless they get something wrong – receive next to no praise or credit for it.

 Will that change after the current crisis is over? Will their hugely important, brave and selfless role in this crisis be remembered? Will attitudes change and will they no longer be on the “always forgotten” front line?

 Care workers who I know personally hope so. But given the public and media attitude to their sterling and dedicated efforts up till now, they are not optimistic that much, if anything, will change.

Stoicism wilts under the lockdown

 NEWLY-released figures reveal that in the Highland council area, the total number of people who have died as a result of the coronavirus is 22. One of the deaths was in a care home, 18 were in hospital, and three were at home.

 These are the facts and it almost goes without saying that this will be a very difficult time for the families of the people who have passed away.

 Nevertheless, six weeks into this situation I am still in the position of not knowing anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who has been hit by the disease, in the Highlands at least. (As I previously reported, a relative in Perth knows two elderly people living in Brechin who were quite ill from the virus, but who recovered).

 We know the level of deaths and suffering elsewhere. In the Highlands, because of the lack of overcrowding and the scale of the rural environment, are we getting off comparatively lightly?

 That certainly seems to be the case. From what I’ve been told Raigmore is working much as normal.

 But life is not as normal and for some it is more abnormal than others. I had an email yesterday from a regular reader and correspondent to us in her 70s who has quite strictly followed the self-isolation guidance given to folk of her age. But she is beginning to suffer, from restlessness, boredom, lack of sunlight, lack of contact and days which can seem endless. Her stoicism under stress and strain is wilting.

 She finished by saying succinctly: “I’ve heard that for us the lockdown could last until 2021. If that’s the case – there will be a rebellion!”

 I’m sure she meant it. And I’m certain she’s right.

Hotel firm keeps the faith as plans forge ahead

 A HOTEL chain which has plans to build on the site of the Ironworks in Inverness has emphasised that there is no change in its stance and that it will be moving forward with its proposals, despite the fact that the tourist industry this year will be a total washout.

NESS 2
Hotel chain convinced the vibrancy will return and the visitors will again pour in.

 Of course that’s the right thing to do.

 A year from now the first of a mass influx of tourists from across the UK and across the world will start to arrive. The city centre will be filling up with them and areas like Ness Walk and the riverside will be transformed back to a scenario of strollers, tables outside restaurants, diners, folk enjoying a drink, roads full of parked coaches, and latecomers and chance arrivals struggling to find a spare room anywhere in town.

 That’s what the incoming hoteliers believe will happen.

 They are keeping the faith that the riverside and city centre emptiness of the moment is a surreal, passing phase, and no more than that. And they surely are right.

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