Emergency plan for care homes for the elderly

Flemish health and well-being minister Wouter Beke (Christian democrat), who is responsible for Flemish nursing homes, has responded to a deluge of criticism about the way the corona crisis is being dealt with in care homes across northern Belgium.

Up to 600 people have died in Flemish nursing homes in recent weeks as a result of coronavirus.  The virus is believed to be present in half of all 800 Flemish care homes for the elderly.  Care workers have been calling out for more protective equipment and support.

Mr Beke told the Flemish Parliament that he has drawn up a comprehensive plan for Flemish nursing homes.  First guidelines were dispatched on 27 February.  A lockdown was imposed on 11 March and more guidelines are in the pipeline as the government responds to the crisis.

Minister Beke’s plan envisages maintaining the lockdown on care homes, but giving relatives greater opportunity to say their goodbyes to deceased family. In the event of an outbreak nursing homes will receive the support of a team specialised in infectious diseases and care for the elderly. The epidemic will be monitored.  Tests will be increased with clear communication about the testing.

Extra staff will be deployed from the medical reserve including students, interns and home care nurses. Extra protective equipment (aprons, eye protection and gloves) have been ordered. Staff will be divided into separate teams that either provide care to coronavirus patients or help non-infected patients. Hospital staff will support care home workers and provide training as well as equipment.

Nursing homes will also receive extra financial support, while a special task force is also created.

Mr Beke denies withholding figures on the number of people thought to have died of corona in care homes: “The figures have been in the possession of the health and science institute since the end of March.  It’s not my fault they were only included in the tables on 7 April”.

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