Newton Mearns care home is still waiting for Covid-19 tests after nine deaths

The owner of a Newton Mearns care home which has lost nine residents to coronavirus has told Nicola Sturgeon it is still awaiting its first Covid-19 test despite repeated requests.
Nine residents with suspected Covid-19 have died at Westacres Care Home in Newton Mearns.Nine residents with suspected Covid-19 have died at Westacres Care Home in Newton Mearns.
Nine residents with suspected Covid-19 have died at Westacres Care Home in Newton Mearns.

Jack Ryan said it was “inaccurate and misleading” for the First Minister to suggest that all care homes could access tests as soon as a resident or staff members shows signs of the disease.

The chief executive of Newark Care, which runs Westacres Care Home in Newton Mearns, has written to Ms Sturgeon explaining his concerns.

His intervention came two days after official figures revealed that a quarter of all coronavirus deaths in Scotland took place in care homes, with a total of 237 residents passing away.

The statistics prompted ministers to announce that testing in care homes would be immediately extended to all residents and staff showing symptoms of the virus.

But Ms Sturgeon also stated that since the start of the outbreak, the first person showing signs of Covid-19 in a care home should have been tested anyway.

Mr Ryan took issue with this, telling the First Minister that his care home had yet to receive any testing despite repeated requests over the past fortnight.

“You stated that it is standard practice for testing of early cases to be carried out within care homes,” he wrote in his letter.

“You need to be aware that, despite having now lost nine residents whose deaths have been reported as coronavirus related, there has been no testing at any point.

“All occurrences were reported to [the relevant authorities]. We have asked repeatedly for testing, from the first instance and for every case which developed in the days that followed.”

He added that Ms Sturgeon’s claim that early testing was already available to care homes was “inaccurate and misleading” and fuelled “suspicions that care homes are at fault”.

Scottish Conservative leader and local Eastwood MSP Jackson Carlaw said Mr Ryan’s letter was of “grave concern” and suggested that “no progress has been made on testing at all”.

He added: “Perhaps if staff and residents could have been tested at an earlier stage, some of these deaths could have been avoided.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “These deaths are absolutely heart-breaking and ministers would like to offer sincere condolences to the loved ones of those who have lost their lives.

“Local health protection teams are responsible for the management of outbreaks in care homes, including any decisions about testing, and we have asked the Care Inspectorate to investigate, as a matter of urgency, the lives lost at the Newark home.

“On Wednesday, 15 April, the First Minister announced Scotland was moving to a system where any symptomatic patient in a care home will be tested for Covid-19.

“This builds on existing infection management procedures where initial suspected cases would be tested to establish whether an outbreak has occurred.”