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    Nursing homes: a ‘ticking time bomb’

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    Urgent measures need to be taken for staff working in nursing homes in light of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic, Femarbel stated in a press release on Wednesday.

    Femarbel, the professional federation for nursing homes, said that “the epidemic is spreading. In Brussels and Wallonia alone, there are 60,000 elderly people living there and 40,000 members of staff working there. Even if visits by residents’ relatives have been prohibited, the 40,000 members of staff obviously return home after work. They all have families. It is, therefore, a ticking time-bomb that can go off at any moment,” the federation claims.

    Femarbel notably called for all members of staff to be “tested as a matter of urgency.” According to the federation, nursing home staff currently have no priority. They wrote that a nurse with fever symptoms presented herself at a hospital was told, “We only test hospital staff. For nursing homes, it’s ‘no’ except in case of emergency.” The federation is now concerned about a growing amount of absenteeism and the potential consequences for residents.

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    While Femarbel thanked “the competent ministers and their teams” for the face masks they received on Monday, they wrote that it’s not sufficient and lamented the lack of “specialised materials,” emphasising in caps that “the Walloon government must take the same measures” as that of Brussels, which bought 100,000 FFP2 masks, as many single-use gowns, gloves and hydro-alcoholic gel.

    “We are calling on the various competent authorities to give the orders passed on by hospitals, health-care institutions like nursing homes, their groups and associations absolute priority and an assurance that they will not be obstructed and are subjected to a minimum of red tape,” the federation stated.

    The press release comes as it was revealed during Wednesday’s press briefing by the FPS Public Health that Belgium’s death toll had been raised to 178, with virologist Steven Van Gucht pointing out that “not all of these deaths took place in the past 24 hours. Reporting them can take a little time, as the number is the sum of the reports from hospitals, care centres and home situations.” The vast majority of coronavirus-related deaths in Belgium are among patients aged 65 and older.

    Jason Spinks
    The Brussels Times