At a time when a social care leader in Wales warned that care staff absences due to self-isolation could pose as great a risk as Covid-19 itself, a care manager based in Hertfordshire echoed the very same concerns, as well as laying bare the reality that many care workers remain at risk because they have not gone forward to receive their Covid vaccines.
Engelina Mafirakurewa - who heads up domiciliary care provider Medow Care Services in Hatfield - has warned that with so many members of care staff having to go into self-isolation due to suspected Covid exposure, the workload for those who remain must increase and it is a struggle to provide an adequate level of care as a result.
Speaking on The Leaders Council podcast, Mafirakurewa explained: “Our workloads are increasing, and we have lost and are still losing a lot of carers at any one time. We are seeing many going into self-isolation as per government advice when they encounter people who have tested positive, and then earlier in the pandemic we saw many of our staff have to shield because they were vulnerable or have vulnerable relatives.
“We have had to work longer hours to deal with the shortfall of available care staff and it is difficult to provide proper care in these circumstances. Furthermore, in the early days of the pandemic, the situation was being made worse because we had a lot of Covid patients coming into our care who had been discharged from hospital and we did not have the resources initially to test them on arrival to gauge whether they were safe, so they could well have been passing the virus onto staff without knowing which affects our numbers.”
Mafirakurewa went on to reveal that she has had to carefully manage her staff members individually over the last year to reassure them that they are able to work safely even with the presence of Covid.
“A lot of our carers were understandably anxious about the virus, and so even when we could kit them out with full PPE, we had to work closely with them and convince them that they could come into work and be safe, and some didn’t want to come into work at all. This remains consistent with new variants as well; they are still worried about coming to work and catching the virus when there is news of new versions of the virus coming out.”
Rather worryingly, an ongoing concern within Medow Care is that some of its workforce still have not received their Covid-19 vaccines due to circulating misinformation, which only exacerbates the risk to themselves, their colleagues, and those within the company’s care.
Mafirakurewa said: “It is difficult to say it, but some of the carers refuse to be vaccinated because of vaccine misinformation, so we are facing a situation where half of our workforce have had the vaccine and the other half have not. So, another challenge for us is to make these people understand that taking the vaccine is in the interests of their safety as well as that of their colleagues and the people we care for.”
The full interview with Engelina Mafirakurewa of Medow Care Services can be seen below.