‘Care homes need help to take back Covid patients’

An elderly care home operator on Friday defended the decision of some homes to refuse to take back Covid patients ready to be discharged from hospital, saying accepting them could expose other residents to infection.

Grace Li, the chief executive officer of Altru Nursing Home, made the comment on a radio programme after the Hospital Authority appealed to care homes to take back patients suitable to be released, to ease the burden on public hospitals.

“We understand public hospitals are on the verge of collapse, but is it the time to blame elderly care homes, and to shift one’s responsibility?” she asked.

“If you return three patients to a care home of 100 people, and they spread the virus to 10, 20, 30, or 50 residents who are not vaccinated, wouldn’t all of them have to be sent to public hospitals? And wouldn’t that ultimately again add to the collapse of public hospitals?”

Li, a member of the Elderly Commission, said many care homes do not have sufficient personal protective equipment such as clothing, N95 respirators, and rapid test kits to protect their residents and staff.

She added that not all homes have the space needed to properly isolate discharged patients.

“We understand that hospitals are places to save the needy. They are not isolation centres. We too very much want to take back our residents, but you need to provide us with the weapons to fight the battle,” she said.

She also urged the Hospital Authority to set clearer discharge criteria.

“Some care homes told us that they had been asked to take back patients with a CT value of 10 or so. These patients are a potential risk when they return to care homes,” Li said.

“I hope the Hospital Authority can set clearer discharge guidelines, for example, by stating the CT value at which a resident is allowed to return to a care home. We’re very willing to take back these patients, because we’ve been taking care of them.”

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