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The company running a Skye care home where 10 residents have died from COVID-19 and dozens more are infected has been given another three weeks to keep its operating licence.
It was expected HC-One’s licence to continue operations at Home Farm Care Home in Portree would be revoked in a virtual courtroom hosted by Inverness Sheriff Court and Sheriff Eilidh MacDonald last Wednesday.
But after agreement between the company and other health care operatives, including NHS Highland, it was decided to ask the court to defer consideration to allow everyone concerned in the welfare of the residents to address all issues of concern and minimise disruption.
If this is successfuly done by June 10, it is expected HC-One will be allowed to continue running the home.
An application had been made by Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCSWS) to end HC-One’s involvement at the home where 30 residents and 29 staff have tested positive for the virus.
This follows a recent inspection by the Care Inspectorate which raised ‘serious and significant concerns’ about the running of the home by HC-One. It lodged an application to suspend its licence. NHS Highland moved in to take control until the court had decided on the legal application.
But the legal representative for SCSWS, Roddy Dunlop QC, told Sheriff MacDonald it had been agreed between both parties, The Highland Council and NHS Highland, that to prevent ‘the nuclear option’ of suspending the licence, ‘the residents can continue with as little disruption as possible’.
Mr Dunlop added: ‘NHS Highland has taken steps to address the concerns and it has been seen that there have been substantial improvements but not all concerns have been fully addressed.
‘There is a joint motion to continue consideration of the motion so then there can be continued monitoring of the home with the help of NHS Highland.
‘If all concerns are resolved, this need go no further. Weekly inspections will continue for the next three weeks and regular dialogue will be on-going,’ said Mr Dunlop.
HC-One’s representative Peter Gray said it was agreed by the company. He added: ‘Matters are being treated extremely seriously by those I represent and they should be addressed robustly to ensure the necessary improvements are made.’
Sheriff MacDonald deferred the motion and added: ‘The community of Skye deserve a rapid solution and it is right all parties have come together to try and deliver that.’
In total, 207 residents have died in HC-One’s Scottish homes.
In a statement, HC-One said: ‘The impact of COVID-19 on us, on the UK and the world is unprecedented and there is a professional and public interest to learn about its impact and discuss this openly.
‘Consequently, we have decided to share the number of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases and the number of residents who have sadly lost their lives, at a company level.’
HC-One said it was disappointed the Care Inspectorate had taken the legal action, adding it was working with NHS Highland to implement a ‘robust action plan’.
Skye had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 prior to the outbreak at Home Farm. All but four of the home’s 34 residents have contracted the virus.
HC-One – the UK’s largest care home operator – brought in temporary staff from outside the island, but insisted these were from homes believed to be Covid-free.
New measures were introduced recently for health boards to be able to take over private care homes if they are failing.
MSP for Skye Kate Forbes, told the Lochaber Times: ‘My priority is to ensure the highest standard of care is given to residents of Home Farm in Portree.
‘I am pleased the Care Inspectorate has taken such robust action and will continue to monitor the situation.
‘NHS Highland has already been providing support to residents in the home and will continue to effectively run the home.
‘The situation at Home Farm, where there have been 10 deaths, has been devastating for everyone in the community, particularly for relatives and friends.
‘Whatever happens in the long run about ownership, residents at Home Farm will get all the support they need in these difficult days.’
Skye councillors John Finlayson, John Gordon and Calum Munro commented: ‘What is most important here is it has been confirmed residents are getting a high quality of care at present and this will continue to be monitored.
‘It is also important for residents, families and the wider community to know care will continue to be provided on Skye. This is a difficult time for everyone but the decision means HC-One, supported by NHS Highland will be able to offer continuity of care for all residents, which will be evaluated on an ongoing basis. Staff will also be supported to deliver this care.’
Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Margaret Davidson, said: ‘I am pleased with this outcome that has enabled the continuation of care – for the immediate future – at Home Farm Care Home.
‘It recognises the hard work that has taken place but also the need for further work to enable safe care of the home’s residents.’