Bradshaw calls for regular testing for domiciliary care workers without delay

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has expressed dismay there still appear to be no moves to introduce regular, routine coronavirus testing for domiciliary care workers, despite evidence showing transmission is occurring most commonly in homes.

The South Belfast MLA was speaking after the introduction of new measures by the Executive to help prevent the rise in COVID-19 cases, including restrictions on those entering households.

“The introduction of new regulations across Northern Ireland prohibit visiting other people’s homes, except when it is essential. Clearly, domiciliary care falls into that category, but if we are saying there is heightened risk in the home environment, then most people will see it as essential domiciliary care workers and those they care for are also provided with this extra layer of safe-guarding, just as they are in care homes,” said Ms Bradshaw.

“The argument against this at the minute appears to be these workers are provided with the appropriate levels of PPE and training on hygiene control, however, many months ago the same argument was used to dismiss the idea of regular testing of care home staff. We cannot wait for another month or two to act on this – clinically-vulnerable, domiciled patients need protected more than most from this deadly virus.

“The current Department of Health guidance for domiciliary care workers states they are ‘able to access COVID-19 testing to help ensure they remain available for work. This includes domiciliary care staff, including those who are self-isolating due to a family member being symptomatic’. Given what we know now about the delay in feeling and showing symptoms, coupled with the number of home visits each domiciliary care worker makes each shift, I believe this current position is outdated and must be addressed.

“I would urge the Minister to take steps immediately, given the new restrictions on home visits, to ensure those who visit homes to provide care are treated in the same way as any other care worker. It is time for a belt and braces approach to stopping the virus in these critical circumstances.”