This week's Community Column is written by the Helensburgh and Lomond area's constituency MSP, Labour's Jackie Baillie.

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They say that a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. I fear we will not be judged kindly when it comes to the treatment of our older people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The numbers of older people dying of confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in care homes are beyond what could ever have been predicted at the start of this outbreak, and I fear that the statistics under-report the true picture.

Hundreds of families have lost loved ones and thousands of hard-working staff are fighting to protect their residents – initially without the resources needed to carry out their job safely.

When this pandemic first emerged and many of the facts were largely unknown, there was one thing that we did know – that the elderly and vulnerable were statistically the least likely to survive a Covid-19 infection.

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It is therefore quite incredible that for several weeks, social care staff were being made to treat older people – both within care homes and in the community – without the PPE needed to protect the health of themselves and those they cared for.

Social care staff are some of the most hard-working and dedicated workers that I have met and we put them in an impossible situation. It was weeks before adequate supplies were provided and there are still shortages in some areas.

The initial lack of testing also meant that hundreds of individuals have been put at unnecessary risk. We needed widespread testing from the start, in line with WHO expert guidance, but this has been slow in coming.

Indeed it is only in the last week that residents at care homes are being tested and people being discharged from hospitals to care homes have to be tested too. Up to now this wasn’t the case and people who were Covid-19 positive were transferred to care homes.

Guidance suggests that older people with suspected covid 19 should not be taken to hospital and there have been cases highlighted where hospital admission has been refused. Yet there is spare capacity in our hospitals.

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Then there are incidents is the approach taken where the older person has a Do Not Resuscitate notice attached to their records and the family are completely unaware that this is the case because they have not been consulted.

Reassurances on this have subsequently been received from the Scottish Government. that contradict and update the previous guidance and I welcome that, as this will save lives. Our older people always deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Finally, our thanks need to go to all social care staff whether in care homes or caring for people in their own homes.

They work really hard to keep our older people safe. Most of them are on low wages and all of them deserve to be properly valued for their contribution to our society. The time to do so is now.

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