Covid: Care home manager describes 'impossible situation' facing sector amid ongoing crisis

Ian Lang meets with staff at the care home forced to bring in colleagues with coronavirus

A care home manager has described the "impossible situation" facing her sector amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Donna Owens, manager of Plas Dyffryn, had to lend a hand at her company's sister care home on Anglesey after it was forced to ask its staff to come in to work despite testing positive for Covid-19.

"I've been working a lot of hours - about 70 hours a week," she told ITV Wales.

"I started work at 6 o'clock in the morning the other morning until 9 o'clock the next morning. I went home for two hours and was called back in because we just couldn't get the staff at all."

Ms Owens was called in to help out at the Caledonia home in Holyhead, where 11 of the residents have coronavirus themselves.

The 15-bed home, which specialises in dementia care, only continued operating over the weekend because two members of staff who had tested positive for Covid agreed to man the night shift, caring for the residents who also have the virus.

Ms Owens said: "It's frustrating because we're not getting a lot of help. Even though I had a day off on Saturday, I was still on the phone from 8 o'clock in the morning til half past 7 at night with social services and we were just getting nowhere."

She said pay is an issue within the care sector and staff are scared of catching Covid themselves.

"It feels like an impossible situation", Ms Owens said.

Ann Bedford, who runs both care homes, was told by Isle of Anglesey Council that they did not have anybody available that they could send to help.

It meant two members of staff had to come in to do two night shifts whilst suffering from coronavirus themselves - before needing to recover.

Ms Owens continued: "It was just three members of staff dealing with 12 residents.

"Some of the staff are very very tried now. It's a waiting game now thinking someone else is going to phone in sick with Covid."

In response, an Isle of Anglesey County Council spokesperson said the care sector and local councils are facing recruitment challenges which have been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic - but said it "rejects claims" that this care home was "abandoned".

“Decisions in respect of emergency care provision at the Caledonia have been taken in the best interest of residents. Our officers, together with colleagues in health, have worked very closely with Ms Bedford to respond to her staffing shortages since this issue was brought to our attention.”

 “Our staff and those from health have worked to identify shift cover at the Caledonia until the weekend ensuring that residents do not have to leave their home. We have provided a great deal of support during what is an extremely challenging period for all involved and will continue to do so.”

It comes after care home bosses also told ITV Wales the sector is buckling under a staffing crisis - with a total of 760 care vacancies posted on jobs portals across Wales in August alone.

What has caused the care home crisis?

The staffing crisis is being caused by two main factors.

The social care system relies heavily on employing a workforce from EU countries, but many EU nationals returned to their countries of origin at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

The GMB Union also said many did not apply for settled status when the UK left the EU.


The number of older people living with severe dementia is predicted to double to 53,700 in the next 20 years. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Experienced care workers are also said to be calling it a day as a result of the pressures brought by the pandemic.

The burnout and stress of working conditions under Covid have forced many to look elsewhere for equally - and in some cases better - paid work that does not carry the same constraints as care work on their personal and social lives.

The Welsh Government said it is working with unions, care representatives and local authorities to consider how it can improve working conditions.

It said it provided £50m of funding to local authorities to help support workforce and sustainable social services, and has also committed to ensuring social care workers get the Real Living Wage.