Dr James Walsh, leader of Arun District Council, spoke out at a meeting of the county council’s cabinet, calling Parliament’s handling of the coronavirus crisis ‘disastrous’.
A report presented to the meeting showed a clear spike in deaths at the county’s care homes throughout April and into May, with the usual numbers more than doubling from the middle of the month.
While the average death count hovered around the 60-65 mark, by the end of April the numbers had peaked at 156.
Dr Walsh (Lib Dem, Littlehampton East) said: “On March 17, the government issued a diktat that the elderly were to be urgently removed from acute hospital care into care homes.
“There was no introduction of testing of any patients at that time, merely advice on hygiene as they were transferred from hospitals, where Covid-19 was around, into care homes.
“It was a full month later, after the bulk of patients were transferred, that the government belatedly, on April 16, introduced guidance that patients being transferred from hospital had to be tested before they were placed in a care home.
“By then, the damage was done – and the damage is clear to see.”
Calling for a national inquiry into the government’s handling of the ongoing emergency – and a local inquiry into the impact of the pandemic on West Sussex – Dr Walsh added: “The West Sussex response has been compounded by the disastrous management of the situation from central government, with its too little too late approach and its initial direction of herd immunity.”
Paying tribute to the work carried out by ‘dedicated’ county council staff, Dr Walsh said they had had to work ‘with one hand tied behind their backs’ due to constantly changing advice from central government.
He added: “On several occasions, the government guidance changed within a matter of ten days or so four or five times.
“The lack of a proper cohesive plan nationally and its cascading downwards has been a disaster right across the county.”
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