Rhoda Grant MSP has asked NHS Highland to start daily testing of all care home staff and residents who tested negative at the Skye care home hit by a coronavirus outbreak

Home Farm Care Home remains at the centre of the island’s outbreak as 57 residents and staff test positive for the deadly virus.

In an email marked urgent to health board interim Chief Executive Paul Hawkins, Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant said testing at Home Farm Care Home should be carried out every day with immediate effect for all the staff and residents who tested negative when mass testing was carried out on 29 and 30 April.

Army personnel have been deployed to Skye after residents died at the care home. Five residents have now died.

Rhoda said: “I know NHS Highland did not delay testing at the home as soon as the first staff member was confirmed with Covid-19. But this testing needs to be carried out on a daily basis at the care home for staff and residents who tested negative.”

Rhoda has also asked NHS Highland to respond to concerns raised by the devastated family of a resident who sadly died at the facility yesterday after testing positive for the disease.

They are concerned about the care home’s handling of infection control during the pandemic and claimed staff were being moved around between the group’s other care homes in other areas, without adhering to self-isolation protocol.

Rhoda has asked Mr Hawkins did NHS Highland know whether staff had been tested before they were moved in and whether any contact tracing of staff had taken place to ensure staff brought in were not coming from other homes where patients had tested positive for the infectious disease.

Rhoda has also questioned Mr Hawkins on what steps the health board took to alert Home Farm about risks to residents once the threat of Covid-19 became known, and what steps it took to identify care homes where residents might be at particular risk due of low standards of care being flagged up in inspection reports.

Home Farm was warned about adhering to cleanliness standards just six months ago.

The MSP also wants to know what extra staffing NHS Highland has deployed to the home since the outbreak.

In addition, Rhoda has also written urgently to the Health Secretary Jeane Freeman asking how all separate bits of government advice have been passed on to care homes by the Scottish Government.

In her email Rhoda says: “I understand the Home Farm Care Home has weak ratings with regard to infection control – was it identified by Health Protection Scotland as one which might need special attention or guidance before the outbreak occurred? If this is the case, what additional action was taken to protect residents?”

She went on: “At Topical Questions on the 5th of May, you told me the guidance was clear, “there should be no transfer of staff from one care home to another because all of this is about breaking the transmission route”.

“When was this guidance passed on to care homes?

“Also during Topical Questions, you told me many of the private care homes were not following government guidance and that’s why government was now intervening. Where the Government believes that the private sector is at fault, what steps will it be taking to investigate and ensure the right procedures are in place?”

Rhoda also urged the health minister to look into the care home’s policies with regards to allowing relatives to be with their loved-ones in their final moments.

She wrote: “The grief-stricken family I am supporting phoned me in the hours after their loved-one passed. There appeared to have been last-minute confusion which prevented more than one of his relatives to be by his side at the time of his passing.

“This can only lead to further distress. I believe safe ways can be found to let people visit at the same time if they are all wearing full PPE. This must be looked at urgently and can you (Cabinet Secretary for Health) communicate with the care home and ask that they change this ruling? I have also written to the Managing Director of HC-One John Kirk today and I put this question to him.”