Where's the PPE Welsh Assembly?
Mark Evans , branch secretary, Carmarthenshire County Unison
Our union branch raised with senior management of Carmarthenshire County Council that we did not accept the guidance of Public Health Wales (PHW) when it comes to the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
PHW advises that PPE should only be used where a patient is exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms, or has Covid-19.
We stated that we wanted all care workers who work in domiciliary care and in residential care to have full PPE - including a mask, eye protection, disposable gloves and aprons.
We said that the current guidance did not protect service users from contracting the virus from carers, and vice versa; if our members/staff continue visiting service users without adequate PPE, this will inevitably result in very serious consequences for service users and carers, and the service could be at risk of breakdown.
Senior management agreed that staff needed to be given full PPE for the above reasons, but that this was not a problem of their making. They said they were not getting sufficient PPE supplies from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) despite pleading for them.
So, rather than admit that they do not have enough PPE, they issue guidance which effectively rations it. And where local authorities ask for more, they tell them to stop misusing it!
The guidance of WAG through Public Health Wales is built around protecting WAG from criticism.
The situation is so bad that the directors of local government social care have jointly written a letter to the Welsh Local Government Association complaining about the lack of PPE. The letter states that the current guidance lacks logic, and that the guidance risks causing a failure in the service.
While it could not be predicted when a new virus would come on the scene, it was entirely predictable that one would rear its ugly head at some stage. It seems apparent that the WAG and successive Tory governments did not plan sufficiently for this eventuality.
Not only that, the Labour WAG dutifully passed on devastating Tory cuts to local government in Wales, and underfunded our NHS by a billion pounds. These savage cuts were then administered by every council in Wales, leaving them in a much weakened state to fight the impact of Covid-19.
Our members will strive might and main to keep critical services going. But they are not being given the tools (PPE) to do the job and stay safe. We are told we are all in this together, but it seems care workers are being expected to work in riskier situations than most.
The Labour WAG needs to come clean about what PPE it has, and how it is going to get more. Care staff and NHS frontline workers need full PPE, and they need it now!
If necessary it should nationalise companies to ensure adequate supply. The WAG needs to be demanding the full funding of the NHS in Wales and that council funding by central government be returned to 2010 levels.
In The Socialist 8 April 2020:
What we think
World War Two