Care home management must be scrutinised
The Generalitat still has four homes under public control and has closed four more since the beginning of the pandemic. In total it has intervened 36 geriatric homes, either due to deficiencies in safety and hygiene measures or for other reasons. The casuistry is very varied and it is clear that the confluence between a virus that affects the elderly the most and closed centres in which many people gather in a small space made many residences find themselves without means or knowledge to cope with the wave of infections and deaths that came over them. Two thirds of the 12,784 deaths caused by the pandemic in Catalonia were care home residents, and half of them, some 4,400, died in care homes, as they were not transferred to a hospital because it was too late, because there was no possible treatment for them or because hospitals were overcrowded.
Throughout the country and the state, and indeed throughout the world, in the coming months and years, we will begin to take stock of what happened in nursing homes. It has been a global problem that will probably force a major rethinking of the management and control of these centres. With the prospect that in the coming years the percentage of elderly people will increase considerably - especially because of the fact that the baby boom generation, the largest this century, is reaching this age bracket - it will be important to rethink a care system that will undoubtedly be increasingly needed. And in order to do so, it is necessary to review and analyse in depth what happened in the first months of the pandemic. Although in some cases there may have been negligent or even criminal behaviour that will have to end up in court and may deserve criminal punishment, surely the vast majority of cases were caused by a situation that overwhelmed care home staff, who did not have sufficient means or knowledge to deal with it. Inquiries will be essential to find out what did not work or was not done properly and, on that basis, create protocols to prevent this from happening again.
At the moment, the good news is that right now there is only one care home in Catalonia with a coronavirus case among its residents. In other words, vaccination in these centres, which has been prioritised from the outset, has worked and there are no more cases or deaths from covid. The situation outside the centres, however, is still not under control. The Generalitat has loosened restrictions but, after all, each residence has a different casuistry that may require more or less control. Even so, now that they are vaccinated and it is being shown that immunisation has worked, it is important that they can recover as much social life as possible and enjoy the company of their loved ones. Some relatives associations complain of over-zealousness on the part of nursing home management, which is damaging the mental and emotional health of many elderly residents. The excess of caution is understandable because of all that has happened, but in many cases it has no justification once the effect of the vaccination has been demonstrated, and does nothing more than prolong a suffering that could be avoided.