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Here’s a round-up of this afternoon’s questions to the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), and his deputy – and you can probably guess what dominated it.
“All options being considered” to expand isolation facilities
Repeating concerns from earlier in the week about a lack of critical and intensive care beds in Wales, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) asked the Health Minister for more details. He also pointed out that there may be a shortage of isolation units:
“We will perhaps need to build capacity for isolation, for example, and I can relay to you the offer made by one hotel owner, for example, offering a hotel to be used, perhaps as somewhere where people can be isolated. Are there plans to create that kind of capacity within the system – perhaps turning to hotels, or other locations, or even to the army too? Because there is capacity that can be built within the military when it comes to isolation.”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM
The Health Minister accepted as fact that the UK has a lower proportion of critical care beds compared to the rest of Europe – but it was too late to argue about the politics of it or funding. Plans were being developed – and the Minister was privately briefing opposition parties on some of the details there. He also expected to provide weekly updates to the Senedd “for the foreseeable future”.
As for isolation facilities, all options were being considered depending on the length and severity of the epidemic.
“We’re considering all options. And that’s both part of our pandemic flu planning that is being stepped up; it’s also part of what local resilience fora are looking at, to consider what takes place in each of the four areas. And that involves not just devolved public services it of course involves the regular relations we have together with non-devolved services. So the police are involved in each one of our four local resilience fora as a matter of course, in terms of that emergency planning and delivery response. We are also, of course, considering the potential the army may have to play.”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething
Coronavirus and the care sector
Praising the Health Minister for the hard work behind the scenes and keeping AMs apprised of the situation, Shadow Social Service Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy) said those most at risk of serious complications from coronavirus were in residential care.
“I have received an e-mail that highlights concerns that one infected home care worker could potentially unknowingly carry the virus into the homes of countless vulnerable older residents. Therefore, will you explain what steps you are taking to assist care workers to reduce the risk of contracting the virus? What emergency measures will be taken to protect vulnerable individuals receiving home visits and what support will be provided to social care providers to help them find replacement staff, should some employees have to self-isolate?”
– Shadow Social Service Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders AM
Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, Julie Morgan (Lab, Cardiff North), said the Welsh Government was keeping local authorities in the loop, while a working group has been set up to look at these very issues. Parts of the third/voluntary sector could step in if the situation escalates.