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‘Extraordinarily Selfless’ Care Home Staff Camp Out to Protect Residents

Published on: 18 May, 2020
Updated on: 19 May, 2020

by Hugh Coakley

Staff at a Guildford care home are camping in the grounds to protect their vulnerable residents from Covid-19 virus.

“Extraordinarily selfless” care staff at Pilgrim Wood Residential and Dementia Care Home, in south-west Guildford, moved into tents in April to help isolate their charges. The complete lockdown is an attempt to minimise contact which could allow the coronavirus to enter the home.

Staff are camping in the Pilgrim Wood care home grounds to protect residents from coronavirus.

So far, their approach has been successful. No residents have contracted the virus to date, said the manager of the family-owned care home, Sharon Mitchell.

Ms Mitchell, who was only appointed manager in January this year, said: “We put the plan to camp to the staff. If they hadn’t agreed, we couldn’t have done it. They are a wonderful team”

Sharon Mitchell, the manager of Pilgrim Wood care home, with carer, Adriana Bucur, sitting outside the tents in the grounds.

The 13 staff who are staying on, from a usual staff compliment of 30, are camped in the three-acre grounds on Sandy Lane within an area of outstanding natural beauty and have been spotted playing ball games in their off time.

The families of the 20 care home residents provided the tents and the owner provided Z -beds “for a bit of comfort” said the manager.

“It has been fun sitting out in the open in the evening but we slept in the dining room one night when it was cold,” she added.

Ms Mitchell talked about the sacrifice being made by the carers, many of whom have children and families that they haven’t seen for more than three weeks. “It is tough not seeing them but we do ‘Facetime’ them.”

I asked her why she thought other care homes weren’t doing something similar.  “I don’t know,” she said, “but this is what we feel we need to do professionally.  Is that why other care homes have Covid?”

Apart from the lockdown, the home said that they were vigilant as soon as they heard that the coronavirus was coming. They stopped using agency workers and picked up staff from home to avoid the use of public transport. All food packages and post is sanitised when it arrives and surfaces are cleaned twice a day.

The four tents are being used 24 hours a day with the skeleton staff working and sleeping in shifts.

The staff are getting what Sharon called, “a very small financial bonus. But that isn’t the reason we are doing it. We get upset when one of the residents gets sick.”

Carer, Adriana Bucur, is one of those camping. She is with her husband who also works in the home. They have a six-month-old daughter who is being looked after by her grandmother at their home in Guildford. She said that she was missing her baby but, “I love this job. We are like a family here.”

Sharon said that the staff have agreed to carry the lockdown on for another three weeks after the initial four week period. “We say that we are riding the storm.”

Sharon knows that they cannot continue to do this indefinitely but she was determined to do the best she could. “We are testing all our staff and residents for Covid today. We will consider weekly testing and we will test again if new staff join us.”

David Holmes, chairman of the Surrey Care Association, said: “I am not aware of any staff teams in Surrey who have taken this extraordinarily selfless step.

“Surrey services providers have recognised the risk that staff can potentially bring Covid-19 in. In my own organisation, we have provided PPE to people’s partners, allowed staff to use company vehicles so they don’t have to catch the bus and given a financial incentive to people to shop online. And now we have introduced weekly testing of staff to further minimise the risk.”

Unison have been asked to comment.

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