Many of the carers look after children and family with learning disabilities in their own homes and feel isolated because of the Trust’s restrictions on access to day centres and respite care due to Covid.
Kathryn Traynor claims that despite many restrictions lifted by the Department of Health, carers say the Trust continues to insist on retaining some restrictions.
“It’s been two years and we still haven’t got our services back,” she said.
Kathryn, who has two severely disabled sons, claims the Trust is still using the two metre distancing rule which is restricting the day time care for her boys.
Friend Tracey Gillilland said: “These are the restrictions the other trusts have relaxed. Others have got services back but at this Trust we can’t.
“It’s excuse after excuse. Carers are fed up being fobbed off.
“I have received a copy of the Trust’s guidelines. Again it says isolation before respite removed but Respite services are still telling us to isolate before we get a break,” said Tracey.
Kathryn said: “Robin Swann removed isolation and swobbing before respite on October 21 but the SHSCT is still doing it. Each time they’ve spoken to me they keep saying they’re following their own IPC guidelines.
“It is my intention with other parents to lead a protest at Trust HQ. I am sick of the inequality that carers and service users are experiencing. I’ve tried the direct approach with case managers etc all to no avail. Covid can no longer be the reason for no action,” she said.
The protest is to be held at Craigavon Area Hospital near the Southern Health Trust Headquarters on Monday March 14 at 11.am.
A spokesperson for the Southern Trust said: “The past few years have been hugely challenging for our staff and services as we have managed the pandemic and we know particularly stressful and frustrating for carers of people with a learning disability, with the reduction of some services.
“The pandemic is still ongoing and there continues to be a high number of daily cases of COVID-19 both regionally and in this local area. We continue to work closely with the Public Health Agency and the Department of Health to ensure that day care services are following the latest Regional Infection, Prevention and Control guidance whilst aiming to carefully rebuild services.
“Currently Day Care in Disability services continues to operate Monday to Friday at almost two-thirds (64%) capacity. Whilst restrictions in the community have relaxed, health and social care remains a high risk environment and for the safety of service users and staff, there are measures that we must continue to follow.
“The regional guidance states:
If you have been identified as a close contact, even if you are fully vaccinated, you are advised:
not to visit hospitals or care homes for 10 days following your last contact with the positive case
to minimise contact with those known to be at higher risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19
Day care settings also follow this guidance.
“Regretfully persons with a learning disability appear to be at higher risk of severe illness and outcomes as suggested in the Department of Health report. Deaths of people identified as having learning disabilities with COVID-19 in England in the Spring of 2020 which examined data from The English Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) and NHS England’s COVID-19 Patient Notification System which records deaths in hospital settings.
“In relation to short breaks, the Trust follows the updated Care Home COVID-19 Isolation Guidance Northern Ireland – published on 3 February 2022. This guidance outlines testing and isolation requirements including short breaks. Testing prior to short breaks is advised in this document.
“Staff are currently reviewing risk assessments for each facility and service users and will be asking for the support of carers in trying to safely resume more services.”