Published: 12:55, 09 June 2020
| Updated: 12:59, 09 June 2020
Around 28% of Kent care homes have suffered from an outbreak of coronavirus, it has emerged.
More than 150 care homes have reported occurrences of Covid-19 at the county's 547 sites in the last three months.
The Office for National Statistics revealed last week that 255 people died from coronavirus in Kent's care homes while a total of around 1,000 Covid-19 deaths have been recorded across the county.
Kent County Council's (KCC) adult social care cabinet member, Cllr Clair Bell (Con), described the outbreaks as "regrettable" but said: "Our residential homes are mainly Covid free."
The Ashford county councillor says that Kent has the largest number of care homes in any of the south east counties, which includes Buckinghamshire, Surrey and West Sussex, but also the lowest outbreaks across the same region.
Speaking during an adult social care virtual briefing on Friday, she added: "Where there has been an outbreak it has been possible to take measures to isolate and happily all those affected - some staff and clients - have all recovered.”
However, 17 deaths were recorded at one Thanet care home just two weeks ago at Grosvenor Court in Cliftonville. The 62-bed site in Fifth Avenue specialises in care for those with dementia, learning disabilities and Parkinson’s.
Calls have also been made for a public inquiry into the care home "scandal" across Kent by Margate county councillor Barry Lewis (Lab) in the last two weeks. Nearly 15,000 people have died from coronavirus in UK care homes over the last three months.
Pressures continue to be faced around hospital discharges between Kent NHS providers and care homes during the pandemic, KCC's adult social care committee was told five days ago.
Maria Kallis, the manager of Eaton Lodge Nursing Home in Westgate, said the industry was “virtually being ignored” by the Government but recorded no coronavirus cases at her Westgate Bay Avenue site.
The 68-year-old had not allowed residents being discharged from hospitals to return to the care home until they were tested. Eaton Lodge faced the threat of a “safeguarding notice” from an A&E nurse at Margate’s QEQM as a result, says Mrs Kallis.
KCC's corporate director for adult social care and health, Richard Smith, told Friday's virtual committee: "When we started to embark on this journey we had particular areas of challenges around hospital discharge.
"These were not systematic but more localised issues where care homes were not provided with data or the correct status of someone's test results whether positive or negative.
"KCC challenged this with our support and work with Public Health and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
"We got ourselves into a better place by brokering a more positive relationship with the NHS and our care homes."
But he added: "It's not all rosy. I still think we do have some level of instances where the information is not shared as appropriately as it should be."
County Hall chiefs recently received a £18.8million grant from the Government as part of a national £600m support package for care homes in May. Around 75% of this has been sent to Kent providers.
In addition, more than £7million has been invested by KCC into more than 2.4million items of personal protective equipment (PPE) purchases for key workers, including aprons, hand sanitiser and masks.
However, KCC's main opposition leader, Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem) said that sharp focus should be put towards the test and trace system which is being rolled out by the Government to manage any Covid-19 outbreaks in communities. He added: "The sooner we nail that, the better."
A recovery plan for the adult social care sector, which KCC is forecast to spend an extra £50million over the next 12 months - totalling £600m of its £1.5bn budget - will be finalised by the end of July.
However, several members of KCC's adult social care committee were warned that any recovery plan would change if a second wave of Covid-19 breaks out in the coming weeks.
More by this authorCiaran Duggan, local democracy reporter
This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)