Husband of care home resident who died after testing positive for coronavirus calls for answers

  • Video report by Tim Backshall

The husband of one of the eight people who died at a care home in the Borders says he wants to know how they all ended up with coronavirus.

Grace Dougal, 80, was the last of eight people to die at Saltgreens, in Eyemouth. Her husband, David, has been speaking exclusively to Tim Backshall for our Representing Border programme.

They were married for 55 years but four years ago Grace, a former teacher, had to go into Saltgreens after being diagnosed with Alzheimers. In April of this year, David heard that she had Covid-19. He saw her through a window of the home on the day she died.

He said: "I asked the carer, who was in full PPE, to put on Don Williams' 'You're my best friend' which is a song that Grace and I sang regularly and she opened her eyes and her lips started to move to the song and I got home and an hour later I got a phone call to say she had died."

Now he wants answers to why she and seven others died after testing positive for the virus. A further 15 are believed to have recovered.

"I'd like to find out what happened. I'm not after scalps or anything but I think we should be told what's happened," he says.

David and Grace were married for 55 years. Credit: ITV News/ Family photo

The staff have been widely praised for their work but questions remain about whether any lessons need to be learned. ITV Border has spoken to several families, who want to remain anonymous, but have expressed deep concern about what's happened in Eyemouth.

Scottish Borders Council told us: "Unfortunately there is currently no conclusive evidence as to how the virus entered the care home and it would be inappropriate to comment on speculation."

Whatever happened at Saltgreens, there are wider questions about the Scottish Government's approach to protecting those in care homes. Despite promising last month to test all staff regularly, the latest figures for the Borders suggest the numbers are still very low.

Rachael Hamilton, the Conservative MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, says: "I'm really concerned that last week we saw only half of the care home workers, 504 care home workers out of a total of 1200 tested."

Credit: ITV News

More than half of all Covid-19 deaths in Scotland have occurred in care homes and she says there needs to be a separate care home inquiry, rather than just one inquiry into the whole of the pandemic.

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, was asked about Saltgreens and Mr. Dougal's call for answers at her daily briefing. She said progress was being made but acknowledged that people have the right to know where things have gone wrong.

"Mr. Dougal does have a right to expect answers," she said. "I would want to start by expressing my heartfelt condolences. And I want to say to Mr. Dougal or anyone else in this position that I have an absolute determination. I want to know what we did right and what we could have done better."

The Borders has had fewer care home deaths than most other areas of Scotland but that will come as little comfort to those like David Dougal who have lost their loved ones.