Care home praises staff and residents after major Covid outbreak

Witnesham Nursing Home Suffolk 2020 party

Witnesham Nursing Home director Sheila Jayarajan thanked staff and residents at an end of year party for all they had coped with during the coronavirus pandemic - Credit: Witnesham Nursing Home

A nursing home has praised its brave staff and residents for how they dealt with a major coronavirus outbreak during 2020 - which resulted in three Covid-related deaths.

Sheila Jayarajan, director of Witnesham Nursing Home, said she asked herself at one point: "Are we going to survive?" as the virus spread rapidly throughout the facility, infecting all but six of its vulnerable and elderly residents.

Staff had shut the home down in February, following all government guidance regularly taking residents' temperatures and believing them to be all clear of the virus.

But at that stage, a loss of taste was not officially recognised by the government as a symptom of coronavirus - meaning Covid-19 crept into the home undetected, through no fault of its staff.

Witnesham Nursing Home Suffolk 2020 party

Witnesham Nursing Home held an end of year party for residents to mark their journey throughout the coronavirus crisis - Credit: Witnesham Nursing Home

Ms Jayarajan described how the illness "went through the home", with efforts to nurse residents back to full health compounded by the fact 50% of staff were off during the peak - either because they had coronavirus or were forced to self-isolate.

She said three residents had technically died because of Covid-19, while other coronavirus sufferers who died later had been weakened as a result of the virus.

Yet she said staff and residents had been "real troopers" throughout and remained steadfast in the face of adversity, even though they spent months in isolation and long periods without seeing their loved ones.

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The home - which has been running since 1988 - held a end of year party on December 15, at which Ms Jayarajan said there was a palpable sense of "hope and sheer joy in the residents faces" to be celebrating after such a difficult year.

She also said it was emotional to get an award from the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare Countess of Euston, given "in recognition of outstanding service to the community in Suffolk during the Covid-19 pandemic".

Witnesham Nursing Home Suffolk 2020 party

Witnesham Nursing Home residents and staff celebrate after all they coped with during the Covid-19 crisis - Credit: Witnesham Nursing Home

"Witnesham Nursing Home, like most of the care homes, suffered and lost in this pandemic," said Ms Jayarajan. 

"The residents and staff are real troopers. 

"They have withstood a hideous pandemic. Some battled the virus. The residents were all isolated and did not see loved ones for quite a few months.

"And yet they are cheerful positive and hopeful in all their personal adversity.

"I am very proud of them and my staff who got them through this tumultuous and challenging time."

She added: "The residents had a real journey and they've survived it.

"They've given us hope. They're vulnerable but have gone through that and come out of the other side."

Despite the sadness at losing three residents to the virus, Ms Jayarajan added that the fact they managed to nurse so many back to health should act as a great sign of hope.

She also said that despite all the challenges, the home was motivated by the legacy of her father and Witnesham Nursing Home founder, Dr Sukumaran Jayarajan - popularly known as Dr Jay - who died in December last year, before the pandemic struck.

She said her dad, described as a "guardian angel" by those who knew him, would have been "deeply, deeply worried" by the crisis - but that: "He would've been really happy they've survived."

"I always felt him looking down on us through this crisis.

"I remember at one point, I thought: 'Are we going to survive this?'

"Because of dad's legacy, we just kept going."