Home for the elderly faces accusations of neglect as management tries to cope

The alarming number of COVID-19 infections inside Residenza San Guzepp in Fgura has caused concern following a social media post by a relative of one of the residents at the home, but the management has denied accusations of negligence.

Almost half the people living and working at the home have been infected but manager Emmanuel Saliba told The Shift the residence was doing ‘all it could’ to contain the spread. He failed to reply to questions on how many people have died of the pandemic while in their care.

Godwin Schembri is among the frustrated relatives of those residing at the home. He said he took to Facebook as a last resort after his appeals were ignored.

“I have no alternative but to write this post, as I have been trying for many days to receive news about my dad…These residents need special care, but are currently reporting neglect,” Schembri wrote on Thursday.

The virus already claimed the life of his mother who resided at the Fgura home. Now, Schembri is worried about the safety of his father, who is still there.

Schembri said he has not even been able to clear the room of his mother’s belongings. Requests to speak with his father on Skype have also been ignored, he said.

The management denied allegations of negligence. The Shift asked Saliba to explain what measures are being taken to control the spread of the virus and to respond to the accusations levelled against his team.

“Residenza San Guzepp has strictly adhered to all protocols and guidelines issued by the competent authorities, and has implemented all possible measures to control the spread of the virus, to safeguard the residents’ wellbeing, and to keep the residents’ relatives informed,” he replied.

Schembri has accused the staff of the residence of not containing the spread of the virus, weeks after the first case. He claims that no bubbles, zones or other COVID-19 protocols were enforced at the residence, leaving the elderly in a very vulnerable state.

“Your only action has been to confine all residents to their rooms, with no opportunity to walk out, even if just briefly, in the corridor. Do you really think this is a solution when it has been like this for so many weeks already?” he asked.

Schembri noted that his father needs special attention and that his requests have remained unanswered.

“You speak about the recovery rates, but you have not spoken about the new cases and the deaths that occurred due to the COVID-19 spread in your home. I understand that I am not allowed to see my dad, to come over there and take my mother’s belongings or even see him behind closed doors, so my dad is completely and helplessly in your hands! I implore you to take immediate action and take care of our loved ones, whom we trusted in your care.”

The management of the residency has been issuing updates on the COVID-19 situation at the residency through its Facebook page, yet the deaths at the residency are not reported. Instead, the management is sharing posts by people supporting the home, and others by some who reside there telling their loved ones not to worry.

A post about the state of the home written by Schembri has also been deleted.

“Your main action has been to keep them behind doors with nobody being held accountable (for) what is happening there. When will you act? When will I finally hear from my father that his calls for a carer are being answered? I would not be resorting to this post if I did not feel as helpless as you have made me feel,” Schembri added.

Saliba told The Shift that while the virus has put a strain on the home’s resources, his team is working tirelessly to maintain the highest level of care. He said he will be addressing the claims made in a recent Facebook post, but denied any shortcoming from management. He stopped short  of referring to the post by Schembri.

Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci held a press conference on Friday in which she mentioned Residenza San Guzepp, among other homes for the elderly. Information she presented showed that 127 out of 278 residents at the Fgura home, as well as 32 staff members, have been infected in recent months – that is almost half the residents and workforce in the home.

Currently, there are 33 active cases at the home – five are hospitalised, Saliba told The Shift. Three members of the staff are currently in quarantine.

Saliba said that personnel have been able to keep up with providing the necessary care as some residents have been moved to another facility.

At 3.6 deaths per 100,000 people,  Malta’s COVID-19 mortality rate is now the highest in Europe.


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