Croydon Council has failed to provide vital safety equipment for hundreds of its carers risking their health and that of social care residents during the coronavirus lockdown.
With NHS workers deeply concerned about a lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE, such as face masks, disposable gowns and visors, and with reports from St Helier Hospital that staff there are having to use bedsheets to move the dead, Croydon Council has put out repeated pleas for local businesses to give up any suitable equipment they have to hand.
Croydon has a large number of care homes, both privately operated and several run by the council. They also have social care staff who visit some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents who are housebound in their homes.
And it is council staff who have become very worried about a lack of PPE.
The lack of adequate PPE has been a headline issue for hospital workers since covid-19 was declared a pandemic. There have been reports in the past week of PPE being reallocated from care homes to hospitals with fully stretched emergency wards.
And appeals for donations of equipment, similar to those from Croydon Council, have been made by other healthcare organisations in south London – such as St Christopher’s Hospice.
The weekend brought reports nationally of the first two deaths of care workers who had contracted coronavirus, with workers in some homes forced to resort to “Marigolds and bin-liners” to continue their vital work for the vulnerable after their specialist PPE supplies had run out.
It certainly appears that Croydon Council has been badly caught out over its PPE stocks, putting its staff and residents in deadly peril.
Yesterday afternoon, from the council’s official Twitter account, they issued this desperate plea: “With a national shortage of PPE, we’re working to boost Croydon’s supplies. Are you a business that could donate or sell PPE for frontline workers delivering health, social care and support for residents?”
Even Tony Newman, the council leader, was forced to acknowledge that there is a problem with the council’s supplies of PPE for its staff.
“It is absolutely vital that Croydon’s key workers and those who need PPE to safely do their jobs receive the equipment as soon as possible,” Newman tweeted. “This will also help workers and the residents they are caring for minimise the spread of coronavirus.”
The council’s struggle to source equipment on the open market has been blamed, in part, on “delivery of such vital items is slow”.
The council has a long list of missing items and urges businesses to search their premises for anything that might fit the bill either to sell or to give to the council.
The council says it needs pretty much everything: “The following sealed equipment: face masks, disposable plastic or latex gloves, plastic aprons, disposable eye protection, overshoes and sanitising gel; and is also willing to purchase items, particularly if available in bulk”.
It prefers the items to be delivered to Bernard Weatherill House, but would collect bulk provision, if necessary.
The equipment would be given to “staff working in health and social care for the council and its partners, including care providers across the borough”, the council says, giving as a contact for its appeal as PPErequests@croydon.gov.uk
After having failed to stock up on the necessary volumes of equipment, the council leader has decided to write to the government to complain, saying that he has “called on the Government to do what they must to resolve this as a matter of urgency”.
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