Real Lives

The Courage to Say No

Here’s a scenario:

You finally become manager of a care home just as Covid-19 starts to rampage. In April a lovely resident who has been at the home for many years is taken to hospital poorly. She contracts Covid-19 while there, at a time when no one quite knows what’s happening. You find the hospital very hard to communicate with and they start to insist that she be returned to you even though she has not completed her 14 days’ isolation. She is ultimately your responsibility. And she wants to come home.

What do you do?

Claudia Ramsamy was faced with just such a decision at the start of the pandemic. Newly appointed manager of Willows Care Home, (part of Canford Healthcare) and Great British Care Awards Covid Hero nominee, Claudia not only had to deal with this, but also handle a critical article about her in the press.

“It was so early on and we were struggling like everyone else, and there was no testing at that point. Back then, we didn’t have the facility to create a nursing barrier…Of course I understood the pressure on hospital beds but there were 60 other residents and 100 staff to keep safe, and at the time, barely any PPE or knowledge on how to deal with the virus.”

Claudia took the tough and courageous decision to say…no. The lady was sent to another care home to finish her isolation period. Willows decided they wanted a negative swab to readmit her and it was extremely hard to get hold of kits at the time. The situation drifted on for four weeks.

An article appeared in a newspaper with a strongly critical headline implying Claudia would not take her back which was a neat twist of the truth because of course she would have, if a nursing barrier was in place.

“Families saw the article and they wrote to the newspaper to disagree and proclaim the home amazing. And to their credit the paper published this response. Families felt the newspaper was too judgemental and that the decision made by me was not based on how we felt but on the fact that we had to keep everyone safe. And without the right equipment we were not able to return her immediately.”

Eventually the resident tested negative and she returned to her home.

Barely a month into the job, it’s hard to imagine how Claudia coped with the stress of it all. She felt guilty, going home to look after her toddler. wondering if she would sleep each night.

“As a leader (Claudia prefers this title to manager), you have to make a decision regardless  and it could be right or wrong. But in many ways there’s no such thing as a wrong decision  – it’s just the right decision at a particular time. Not everyone will agree with what you do but our main priority is still always to keep everyone safe.”

The families and the company stood by Claudia’s decision 100%.

The last year has been a steep learning curve and one Claudia is actually grateful for. She recognises that the only way to have a good team is by having a good leader. And a good leader appreciates their team and never forgets to thank them, even for the smallest thing.

“I used to take things to heart too much but now I feel like I’ve grown up – learned to listen more. Before, I used to be more about practicalities but now I’m more driven by staff and residents. I feel privileged to be doing this job – something I feel passionate about every single day.”

So, would you have made that same decision?

Debra Mehta


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