Care home where 19 residents have died wants inquiry into Welsh Government's handling of coronavirus pandemic

The owner of a care home where 19 residents have died during the coronavirus pandemic is warning the sector faces collapse because of the impact of the crisis.

Brian Rosenburg, who owns Tregwilym Lodge Nursing and Residential Home in Newport, says 12 residents died in the space of a week.

"The worst time for us was at Easter and you just can’t describe it,” explained Mr Rosenberg.

“I think in the space of just over a week we lost 12 people."

He said the home is losing £15,000 a week and fears many care homes will not survive and is backing calls for a public inquiry in the Welsh Government's handing of the pandemic.

Brian Rosenburg has owned the 74-bed care home since 1985.

Mr Rosenberg said: “Care homes felt completely abandoned.

“This is not like any other business. Care homes run around the clock, it’s a 365-day service, and you’re dealing with human beings and lives.

“I take the responsibility very, very seriously. These people are in my charge.

“The complete mishandling of the situation amazes me. A pandemic of this nature is very difficult for businesses to absorb and survive. There are a lot of care homes which are very close to going bust. That’s a fact.

“I’ve always run my business on the basis of preparing for a rainy day. Fortunately, I have a strong management team in there and they were able to cope better than a lot of people because they are highly skilled at what they do.

The home, which employs 110 staff, closed its doors to visitors on March 14 and saw its first case of Covid-19 around a week later.

Despite implementing isolation strategies 15 staff have tested positive or shown symptoms for coronavirus.

"During this period, we were also losing staff to sickness and agencies refused to supply replacements because we were considered too high-risk" Mr Rosenberg explained.

“We cannot say categorically it came from hospital. In all fairness, we have 110 staff and they are coming in and out of the home. The testing just wasn’t in place. We were relying on the fact that they were showing symptoms.”

Credit: PA

The Welsh Government has now extended testing to all care homes in Wales but it initially came under fire when only residents and staff in homes with a confirmed or suspected case of the virus had access.

Testing in Wales had been more restrictive than in England, where all care home residents and staff have been eligible for testing regardless of symptoms since the end of April.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said at the time that there was no "clinical value" in testing everyone where no-one was displaying symptoms.

Care Forum Wales is calling for a public inquiry into how the Welsh Government managed the crisis, including the initial lack of testing in care homes.

Mario Kreft, who chairs Care Forum Wales, has said "the crisis cannot be brushed under the carpet.

"Without a national plan to protect the future of our care homes and domiciliary providers, the sector will undoubtedly collapse and then our NHS really will be overwhelmed.

“We have grave concerns at the way this pandemic has been handled and the tragic costs of these decisions on human lives. Clearly, questions must be answered and responsibility accepted.

“Right now, there are care homes in Wales that are a hair’s breadth from ruin which need urgent help and financial support. They are suffering under a lottery system which delivers vast variations in support geographically. That system has to change.”

Credit: PA

The Welsh Government says it has taken steps to support care homes since the beginning of the crisis.

Unlike in England, PPE is being distributed for free to all social care settings in Wales – almost 40m items of PPE have been distributed to more than 1,000 social care settings to date.

Welsh Government statement