Southern Trust discharged patient with positive coronavirus test to care home at start of COVID crisis

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Adam Morton

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Adam Morton

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Local Democracy Reporter

THE Southern Health and Social Care Trust discharged one patient, who had tested positive for coronavirus, to a care home at the start of Northern Ireland’s COVID-19 crisis, the local democracy reporting service can reveal.

In response to a freedom of information request, the Trust confirmed that a total of 278 patients were discharged from the Trust’s hospitals to care homes between March 1 and April 15 this year.

The Southern Health and Social Care Trust provides health and social care services across sections of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Mid Ulster District Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council areas

Northern’s Ireland first coronavirus patient was confirmed on February 27 with the country’s first death from the disease confirmed on March 19.

Lockdown began on March 28.

Of the 278 patients discharged from Southern Trust hospitals to care homes between March 1 and April 15,   59 were tested for COVID-19 prior to discharge.

The freedom of information response explains this was in line with the guidance at the time.

“Prior to NI interim testing protocol version 3 (April 17, 2020) the guidance was to test for COVID-19 when there was a cluster in a long term care facility,” reads the response.

“Care home residents would also have been tested if they met the case definition and required admission to hospital.

“The criteria for testing was broadened in version three to include all symptomatic residents in care homes and patients being discharged from hospital to a care home.”

Of those tested, 54 patients produced a negative result.

The response offers further clarity in regards to the number of patients who provided a negative result by including the following information:  “(plus four, who were in category ‘positive during spell and negative prior to discharge = 58).”

No results were recorded as inconclusive.

However, one patient discharged to a care home between March 1 and April 15 did test positive for COVID-19.

When asked if this meant the patient was discharged despite testing positive for the virus, the Trust’s information governance officer said they would be unable to provide “information relating to an individual patient”.

However, the officer was able to outline the Trust’s general position in response to this query.

“Nursing home staff will have been aware of a positive COVID-19 result regarding a patient being discharged from hospital to the home,” reads the response.

“Strict infection prevention and control measures (including a patient being isolated) are adhered to throughout this period of transition.”

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