'Perfectly healthy' Midlothian pensioner moved from hospital to nursing home where he contracted Covid-19 and died - a day before inspectors found 'serious' issues with PPE and infection control

A grieving Midlothian family claims their 80-year-old father was needlessly sent from a hospital to a nursing home where he picked up coronavirus and died - a day before care inspectors found "serious" issues there with PPE and infection control.

Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 5:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 6:47 pm

Rodger Laing was in Drummond Grange, Lasswade, for just three weeks before his death on May 27th. His family say he was transferred there from Midlothian Community Hospital against their will because social workers said he was "bed blocking" - despite their father being "perfectly healthy and happy" where he was.

Covid-19 is listed as the cause of death on Mr Laing's death certificate, which also states the approximate onset of the virus was just three days before.

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Rodger Laing died after testing positive for Covid-19 at Drummond Grange nursing home. These pictures show Mr Laing just hours before he died and in better times.

A report concerning Mr Laing's death has also been sent to the Crown Office as part of a nationwide review into coronavirus related deaths in Scotland's care homes.

It comes in the wake of a damning Care Inspectorate report which found "significant concerns" with the use and supply of PPE and infection prevention and control practice - including waste and laundry management - at Drummond Grange following an inspection on May 28th.

A spokesperson for care home provider Barchester Healthcare offered their deepest condolences to Mr Laing's family but insisted the home, which cares for highly dependent people, followed government guidance at all times and that PPE stocks were full and staff trained and experienced in infection control.

And the spokesperson said they "do not accept" the Care Inspectorate findings and have raised "concerns" about the care regulator's operation during the pandemic and will be seeking an investigation.

Rodney Laing, whose father Rodger died from Covid-19 on May 27th.

But Mr Laing's distraught daughter, Gail Law, told the Evening News: "I want people to hear what happened to my dad because, at the end of the day, dad would still be alive today if he had not been moved. He was taken too soon and we were not ready for that."

The 53-year-old, from Pathhead, continued: "It's just heartbreaking. We are distraught and I can not think how we will get over this.

"I will never be able to forgive them for my dad, someone needs to be held accountable."

Mrs Law said the loss of her father, who had Alzheimer's disease as well as Schizophrenia and Psychosis, was made all the more traumatic because her mother, Freda Laing, died in December due to heart failure and COPD.

She said her father, who was from Dalkeith, was "perfectly happy" at the hospital where he received excellent care from staff, but was moved to the nursing home despite her fears over the high risk of virus exposure after a social worker apparently overruled his son Rodney's Power of Attorney.

Mrs Law said "alarm bells were sounded" when her father had an "unexplained fall" at the home just days into his stay. After about two weeks he was eating less, sleeping much more and struggling to speak with her by phone. When he developed a cough and high temperature a Covid-19 swab test was done which returned a positive result just two days before Mr Laing died.

The family do not know how he contracted the virus but they were concerned when they received pictures of their father sitting in a lounge and kissing a therapy doll, as well as hoovering a carpet, when they felt he should have been isolated.

A Barchester spokesperson said new residents are cared for in line with Health Protection Scotland guidance on isolation and barrier nursing, and that it would be distressing for residents with a cognitive impairment not to have comforting items available to them. They also stressed all infection control measures are in place to support extra cleaning of materials and surfaces.

The spokesperson confirmed some residents at the home have died after testing positive for Covid-19 - although numbers were not specified - and there are currently no residents there who are Covid-19 positive.

Mr Laing's son, Rodney, said his father tested negative for the coronavirus just before being transferred from the community hospital to Drummond Grange at the start of May. He said: "They took a perfectly healthy man and put him into an area where people were dropping like flies. They had given him a death sentence.

"I am now just wanting justice for my dad."

A Midlothian Council spokesperson did not comment on the family's claims that a social worker made the wrong decision to move Mr Laing from hospital to Drummond Grange nursing home on May 5th.

Inspection findings

A summary of the Care Inspectorate report, published last week, highlighted specific concerns at Drummond Grange with waste and laundry management and with staff knowledge of residents' status in relation to Covid-19.

A "serious concern" letter with requirements was issued and the health and social care partnership also provided staff to support changes to practice at the 114-bed nursing home.

The report said a follow-up inspection was required on June 4th and noted that several improvements had been made by this point.

However, a Barchester Care spokesperson said they are concerned about how the inspection was done, alleging "unprofessional behaviour" of inspectors and a "serious breach of privacy protocol" and a "worrying lack of knowledge" of the pandemic legal guidance and rules around PPE and social distancing.

The spokesperson also said inspectors had failed to understand the most basic care home procedures and that there were delays of three weeks in supplying information to help address concerns in a timely manner, claiming this was done "as an opportunity to damn providers."

The spokesperson said: "We offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr Laing. COVID-19 is a virulent and terrible disease that has caused tragic loss for so many people.

"We would like to reassure everyone that the home followed government guidance and protocol at all times. The home had full PPE stocks and the staff are all trained and experienced in infection control; in addition the home increased staffing levels to address the fact that not all residents have capacity, and many are not able to socially distance. Regarding the point of infection it can be difficult to identify this, as often an extended incubation period can have an impact on results, making it difficult to establish with accuracy where the virus may have been contracted.

"We understand what a distressing time this has been, particularly for those who have lost loved ones, and we offer our deepest sympathies. We also want to thank our staff who have done everything possible to protect our residents during this unprecedented time."

Mr Laing's son said his father had been at Springfield Bank care home in Bonnyrigg before he was moved to the Royal Infirmary in late summer 2019 to be treated for pneumonia, thrush and a feet infection. He was then transferred to the Alzheimer's ward at the community hospital in September. His family started looking for homes for him in February, but struggled to find somewhere suitable before he was moved to Drummond Grange in early May.

'A great father'

In earlier life, Mr Laing worked as a car salesman at several dealerships - including in Earlston in the Borders where he grew up and in Murrayfield - and his son said he would often work on days off as he was "100 percent dedicated" to his job.

Mr Laing also worked in Dalkeith at a timber merchant which led to him to start up his own business and he would often help out the neighbours by looking after their hedges.

His son described him as a "great father" who was dedicated to his family.

A spokerson for the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service said: "The Procurator Fiscal has received a report in connection with the death.

"The investigation into the death, under the direction of Covid-19 Death Investigation Team, is ongoing and the family will continue to be kept updated in relation to any significant developments."

A Care Inspectorate spokesperson said care services across Scotland are working "tirelessly" under challenging circumstances and that they work closely with care providers, health and social care partnerships, care industry leaders and the Scottish government to ensure services get the support they need during the pandemic.

The spokesperson said: "Part of that work includes asking services to notify us of suspected and confirmed cases of Covid-19.

"The purpose of these notifications is to enable us and our partners to direct help and support where it is needed. We share the general data from these notifications with Scottish Government who are the primary publishers of data related to Covid-19 during the pandemic.

"We understand this is a really worrying time for people who experience care, their loved ones and families and for those who work in care. Our thoughts are with all those affected."

Last week, a Care Inspectorate report summarising inspection findings since May 27th at a number of care homes in Scotland - including four in the NHS Lothian area - went before the Scottish Parliament. The inspections were focused on infection prevention and control, PPE and staffing.

The full inspection report on Drummond Grange will be published in due course.

Inspectors also visited Springfield Bank care home on May 28th and found staff there were using aprons and gloves more than once instead of disposing them after single use, in line with the guidance. However, they also found the environment to be clean and well maintained and PPE was available for staff, who were made aware of how to properly use it.

The report said the HC-One operated home had made several changes to ensure social distancing and that staff prioritised the health and wellbeing of people living there and supported them to stay in touch with loved ones.

Care Inspectorate findings were also published on the HC-One operated Drummohr care home in Musselburgh and the Edinburgh City Council-run Drumbrae care home.

In both cases, staff were praised for ensuring social distancing, appropriate use of PPE, good Covid-19 infection control practices and supporting residents to keep in contact with family during the lockdown.