Rapid tests will be used to try to increase the detection of asymptomatic coronavirus cases in care homes, where until now only PCR tests were carried out. This has been announced this morning by the Catalan Minister of Health, Alba Vergés, who has specified that the antigen tests will be "combined" with the PCR tests: care homes residents will take one test one week, the other the next. Thus, Vergés pointed out that it will be possible to "detect them with two different tools". Vergés's announcement came at the Parliament's committee investigating the management of homes during the pandemic, and she said the new detection circuit "is already being introduced". But this formula has its detractors, such as the clinical director of the Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital, Ignacio Blanco, who in statements to the ARA sees it as more "convenient not to change the detection method". "Either PCR or antigen test," says the microbiologist. For Blanco, it would be more convenient to keep the PCRs for residents and oblige all visitors to take an antigen test.
The change of approach was explained in one of the Councillor's answers to the Members' questions. Vergés, as well as the Minister for Work, Social Affairs and Families, Chakir el Homrani, who also appeared, had to answer many questions about the controversial management of the first wave. They have admitted mistakes and a lack of resources, but have always used the exceptionality of being faced with a pandemic to justify the lack of preparation. "The elderly have not only been the most affected in Catalonia, but also throughout the world", El Homrani insisted.
A large part of the questions to EL Homrani have focused on the accusation, among others, of the latest report by Amnesty International, which points out the existence of protocols to deny medical assistance to elderly people. El Homrani has consistently denied this and has claimed that any decision to refer patients or not has been made under "clinical criteria". Even so, El Homrani did admit that the homes were "not prepared" to deal with covid-19.
During the beginning of the pandemic, care homes management was El Homrani's remit. However, the Health Department took over during the first wave. Thus, Vergés has also had to give explanations and admitted that during the first wave "there was a lack of professionals, preparation and material". Vergés blamed the lack of prevention materials during the first months of the pandemic on the Spanish government: "They were the ones who centralised the powers". With or without powers, Vergés defended the management of the Health Department, claiming that primary care in care homes had tripled. "More than 15,000 residents have survived covid-19 thanks to the care and attention of the health system," Vergés stressed.
Almost a third of the outbreaks took place in care homes
Of the total number of outbreaks reported in recent weeks to the Catalan Public Health Agency, 28.7% have been detected in geriatric residences. One of the most worrying, that of the Fiella de Tremp Foundation, continues to be active with 101 residents and 43 professionals positive, and has already recorded 34 deaths. Given these figures, Vergés has called for respect for "safety and prevention measures". What the Councillor has not yet made clear is whether and how residents will be able to leave for Christmas. She has limited herself to stating that "they are working to do so safely".