Son found out father’s care home had 24 deaths from reading media report

The son of an 85-year-old care home resident said he only found out that 24 people from the facility had died after suffering coronavirus symptoms when he read about it in his local newspaper online.

George Robinson feared his father, a retired miner also called George, had been put at risk by Melbury Court in Durham’s policy of accepting residents who had been discharged from the nearby University Hospital of North Durham.

The care home on the outskirts of Durham City has a capacity for 87 residents, 24 of whom have died after suffering Covid-19 symptoms.

Because of the lockdown regulations, Mr Robinson cannot visit his father – who has a number of health issues after he suffered a stroke more than a year ago.

Retired miner, George Robinson, who has lived at Melbury Court in Durham for more than a year (Family handout/PA)

The businessman from Wynyard, County Durham, had nothing but praise for the staff who look after his father, saying the level of care he has received was “fantastic”.

But he claimed the operators of the home had put up a “smokescreen” over the distressing number of residents who have died.

Mr Robinson said: “Every week I have been on the phone to ask them what’s happening with the coronavirus situation and every time I rang, they said there has been a couple of cases.

“I looked at the Northern Echo online yesterday morning and I saw the picture and thought ‘that’s my dad’s home’ – 24 dead and 60 odd who have had the virus.

“It shocked me and my wife to think that my father was that close to it.

“My dad is 85, he worked hard all his life and he deserves better than this.

“I’m not criticising any of the carers, I am praising them.

“What I am criticising is the lack of information from the management who have put a smokescreen around this.

Mr Robinson said his father has tested negative for coronavirus.

The care home, owned by HC-One, said it admitted hospital patients who tested negative for Covid-19 and said the premises was now in “recovery”.

A spokesperson for the home said: “Our thoughts and sympathies are with all families who have lost a loved one from coronavirus and we are doing our utmost to support them during this difficult time.

“Caring for our residents and supporting our colleagues is at the heart of what we do, and we are doing everything we can to make sure our residents and colleagues stay safe and well throughout these challenging times.”

The spokesperson added: “When an outbreak first occurs, the next of kin of our residents are contacted in writing and by telephone.

“Further updates will follow if there is a change in the health of their loved one.

“More broadly, families are encouraged to seek updates on their loved ones by contacting the home at any time.”

On hospital admissions specifically, the spokesperson said: “Like many care homes, we were asked to do our national duty and support the NHS by admitting older people who no longer needed to be in a hospital.

“At all times we followed the Government advice on how to safely accept these admissions, including isolating individuals for two weeks and implementing barrier nursing.

“We are confident the correct process was followed as soon as residents had symptoms, with testing arranged as soon as possible.”

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