HEALTH Secretary Jeane Freeman has pointed the finger at private care home owners for not following Scottish Government guidance  - as she refused to rule out introducing routine testing for health and social care workers. 

Ms Freeman was quizzed in Holyrood by Labour Highlands MSP Rhoda Grant over an outbreak at the Home Farm care home on Skye at the weekend. 

It was revealed that 30 residents at Home Farm had been confirmed as having the disease, with three residents having died. 

There have been a total of 57 confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the Portree home, with 27 staff also affected. 

Ms Grant said she has been told by a constituent with a relative in the care home that issues had been raised previously “about the lack of PPE for staff” and  over “temporary staff being taken in from other homes without a period of isolation”. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: New care home residents arriving without negative results amid Skye outbreak

The Health Secretary stressed that the guidance for care home operators was “really clear”. 

She said every case of Covid-19 in a care home is a “tragic event” but pointed out 70% of care homes are run by private companies, with about 20% run by independent providers and 10% under the control of local authorities. 

“So our capacity to intervene directly is limited,” Ms Freeman said. 

Ms Freeman added: “Many of the issues that members are raising are issues where private care home providers, where the majority of the outbreaks are, private care home providers have not, in some instances, appeared to follow the guidance that we require them to follow.  

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Scotland: Care home deaths now average one every 30 minutes

“That is why as a government, we are taking a more direct intervention route in those cases.” 

The Health Secretary also confirmed routine testing of front line staff could be implemented “if the advice we receive indicates that that is exactly the right thing we should do”. 

Labour’s Neil Findlay said: “The system of testing from the outset has been one of the greatest failings of the strategy to address this crisis.” 

Scottish Greens co-leader Alison Johnstone pressed Ms Freeman on the issue, demanding to know why tests are not being carried out on more care workers. 

She hailed those working in care homes, saying: “The predominantly female, low-paid social care workforce deserve every protection we can give them, we are all aware how these dedicated staff have gone above and beyond the call of duty throughout this crisis to support those they care for.” 

Ms Johnstone said the trade union Unison had claimed “this workforce are terrified of passing on the virus between patients”. 

She said: “Regularly testing these workers would ease anxiety, it would reduce the spread and it would prevent unnecessary isolation. 

“Testing capacity continues to go unused every day. This week alone, thousands of tests that could have been taken up have gone unused so why is the Government so reluctant to address this issue?” 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Hugh Pennington: Mistakes made over testing, PPE and care homes

She told Ms Freeman research has already shown weekly testing for at-risk workers, such as care staff, could reduce the spread of Covid-19 from this group by a third. 

The Health Secretary said: “I am not ruling out the regular testing of health and social care staff, if the advice we receive indicates that that is exactly the right thing we should do more than we are doing at the moment.” 

She said “enhanced outbreak investigations” are being carried out in homes where there has been a confirmed case of Covid-19, meaning all residents and staff there will be tested. 

The Health Secretary also said sample testing was carried out in homes where there have not been any cases as part of surveillance work.