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Calls for public inquiry after 17 people died at Grosvenor Court in Cliftonville

A councillor has called for a public inquiry into the "scandal" of deaths in care homes from coronavirus.

Margate and Cliftonville county councillor Barry Lewis (Lab) wants questions answered about the decision not to "shield" old people from Covid-19 sooner and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for care home staff.

Grosvenor Court in Margate
Grosvenor Court in Margate

This comes less than seven days after it was revealed that 17 people died in Thanet's 62-bed residential home for specialist needs at Grosvenor Court in Cliftonville, with the area deemed one of the worst hotspots in Kent.

Cllr Lewis described the deaths in care homes as a "scandal" and said: "Questions need to be asked in order to learn from these mistakes in the future.

"We have a right to know these answers."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week claimed that the Government had put a "protective ring" around care homes amid the crisis as he defended Whitehall's record during a Downing Street daily news briefing.

More than 11,000 people have died from coronavirus in care homes across the UK while over 1,000 Covid-19 fatalities in Kent have occurred in hospitals, hospices and care homes, two months since the first death on March 20.

Cllr Barry Lewis
Cllr Barry Lewis

Under any inquiry, Thanet's Cllr Lewis said questions should be asked around the decision to send hospital patients back to care homes before being tested.

He added: "Thousands of people have died in care homes Was it possible for them to be treated in hospitals with intensive care equipment rather than remaining in the homes?"

Kent County Council (KCC) has delivered around 2.4million items of PPE to local key workers over the last two months, including gloves, aprons, hand sanitisers and masks.

County Hall has spent around £7million on the equipment from its Covid-19 emergency budget, which has included around £67million of Government grant cash.

On May 1, KCC's leader Roger Gough (Con) said: "We will not let up in our focus to procure and deliver supplies to support the safe provision of services to the most vulnerable people in the county.”

KMTV reporting on calls to protect care home workers at the beginning of April

However, KCC's health and overview scrutiny committee chairman, Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con), said there should be a probe into Kent's handling of the coronavirus in the near future.

He recently said: "There is some discussion that there could be a further spike in October and November.

"It's critical that we learn all the lessons we can from the current experience and have a clear plan in place for any potential repetition.

"Personal protective equipment (PPE) is an example where things have not gone as well as they should."

Calls for answers have intensified after recommendations from a government pandemic exercise involving Kent Resilience Forum were not applied to the current crisis.

KCC's main opposition leader Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem) said: "I think we need to look very carefully at lessons learnt from previous pandemic exercises such as Exercise Cygnus."

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