by Colin Campbell
AS thousands of people prepare to return to their jobs in Inverness on Monday at the end of a 14-week furlough, many no doubt suffering from a severe dose of “back to work” blues, they should spare a thought for those who’ve never stopped working.
In particular, Inverness care home staff in a sector where Scotland has one of the highest virus death rates in Europe.
Exposed to risk on a daily basis, they’ve just got on with the job.
And, while new safety measures were being prepared in stores and other business reopening this week, care home staff in Inverness were being tested for the virus last week – for the very first time.
At the end of last week, some were still waiting to get their results.
The neglect of care homes and care home staff makes a mockery of Nicola Sturgeon’s pose as the cautiously responsible adult in the room among the UK’s political leaders.
While she has been at pains to distance herself from the actions of Boris Johnson at every turn – shops in England reopened two weeks ago – the Scottish Government’s failure on care home safety has been neglectful and incompetent.
Elderly patients have been moved from hospitals into care homes without being tested.
And the fact that staff in Inverness were only being tested for the first time last week renders the praise showered on them during “clap for carers” nights partly meaningless.
One care home worker told Inverness news and views: “At last, we’re being tested, while everyone else is getting ready to go back to work with all the emphasis on their personal safety. It seems quite a contrast between us and them. We’ve just worked away as normal, although it’s been a difficult and stressful time.”
Among Inverness staff who have received their test results, none are believed to have been positive. The tests will now continue on a weekly basis – more than three months after shops and business across Inverness and the Highlands were closed down to limit the spread of the virus.
City care homes have been in lockdown for the past three months, with relatives of residents being unable to gain access to see their loved ones.
The necessary separation has piled the pressure on care home workers who have a difficult enough job to do at the best of times.
Some desperate relatives have turned up at care homes dressed from head to foot in personal protective equipment pleading for entry – but staff have had to refuse amid often tearful and distressing scenes.
Among Inverness care home workers there has been a degree of appreciation for the “clap for carers” gestures on doorsteps across the city.
However, long used to being undervalued and underpaid for the extremely challenging work they do, they do not expect their temporary placement on a coronavirus pedestal of praise to last.