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Social workers lament poor conditions in closed-loop care homes

Lacking proper beds and disturbed by residents, many staff reduced to tears and need to rely on sleeping pills.



Lacking proper beds and disturbed by residents, many staff reduced to tears and need to rely on sleeping pills.



UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:42 am

A residential social worker has spoken out about the difficulties imposed by the closed-loop system in care homes.

Speaking during an online press conference organised by the Macao Social Workers’ Union yesterday the worker – whose name was not disclosed – said that she received a message from the government about the implementation of its Preventative Closed-loop Management Measures at 6 pm on the day before the measures were due to come into effect.

She added that the measures were carried out just six hours after she had been informed about them, describing the time allowing her to prepare for the measure as “too short”.  

During the press conference, two residential social workers described their working environments and the current situation during the implementation of the closed-loop management measures in facilities run by the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS). 

In response to the government’s Covid-19 prevention measure, since 24 June the IAS has carried out the closed-loop management measures in its 36 facilities, including nursing homes for senior citizens and rehabilitation nursing homes, as well as detoxification and rehabilitation homes, so as to prevent the risk of Covid-19 contagion in the facilities and protect the safety of the facility users. 

Since the closed-loop management measures have been implemented, no-one in the facilities has been allowed to leave the premises.  

One of the social workers said that some of her colleagues slept in the activity rooms or on the floor in empty rooms, areas which are the residents’ activity spaces so that the staff could not get much rest. She added that some of the facilities’ residents would walk around, while others would shout or moan because of their illness. Therefore, she said, the quality of staff service had deteriorated due to the lack of “adequate rest spaces”.

The social worker also said that many of her colleagues did not have enough time to familiarise themselves with the guidelines of the IAS regarding the closed-loop operation before and during the implementation. She also said that under “great” pressure due to the lack of staff, many of them were not able to carry out the closed-loop work “carefully”, adding that some of her colleagues were worried about their children. She underlined that some colleagues were unable to take care of their newborn children due to the new measures.

Therefore, she said, she could hear her colleagues crying every day, adding that some of them even needed to take pills to help them sleep. 

Separately, the IAS has stated that around 30 per cent of staff at closed-loop social service facilities have requested to exit the loop. 

The bureau noted that about 1,800 staff are in closed-loop social service facilities, around 30 per cent of them being local employees who have a home in Macao, while 70 per cent are non-resident workers. 

The IAS added that among the local employees, some want a point-to-point closed-loop management arrangement, while others want to leave closed-loop areas by working in rotational shifts. 

The bureau said that it will do its best to meet the residential social workers’ demands, adding that it has coordinated several facilities for point-to-point closed-loop management, in order to provide “more comfortable resting areas” for the staff while effectively preventing the spread of Covid-19.

The bureau said it is following up on providing subsidies to closed-looped staff, in order to ensure that they are properly compensated. The IAS added that several point-to-point closed-loop facilities have completed the basic setup to serve as pre-loop preparation venues and support the rotation of staff at nursing homes.

The bureau said that it will coordinate with the 36 subsidised facilities to implement employees’ “open-loop” rest plan within a short period of time, adding that the managements have decided or are considering granting additional pay, allowances and compensation or holidays to “the closed-loop” staff. 

The bureau underlined that in accordance with Covid-19 prevention requirements, staff members required to exit the loop for rotation shifts need to be quarantined for seven days in the rotation quarantine facilities for closed-loop residential staff after leaving or before returning to the premises. The bureau added that they need to have a nucleic acid test each day during their quarantine in the facilities. 

The IAS noted that nearly 20 per cent of the staff of the subsidised senior citizens’ nursing homes and rehabilitation homes are able to exit the loop for shift work, The Macau Post Daily reported. 


UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:42 am

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