INVERCLYDE'S health board representative says the Scottish Government cost lives in the district by sending untested hospital patients into our care homes during the pandemic.

New figures show that more than 50 local care home residents lost their lives to Covid-19.

Council depute leader Jim Clocherty believes the homes and grieving local families were betrayed by the Scottish Government's decision to discharge patients from hospital in to homes.

According to a report released this week, based on Crown Office data, Larkfield View in Greenock suffered the highest number of deaths, with 17 in total, followed by Balclutha, with 14, and Kincaid House at 10.

Councillor Clocherty, also convenor of the Inverclyde Integrated Joint Board which oversees health and care services, said: "Both our staff and care home staff have been incredible throughout all this and deserve so much credit.

"Our health and social care partnership director Louise Long led the way in making sure that there were links with homes and we did everything we possibly could to support them with PPE.

"It is a national disgrace that the government put patients in to care homes without testing.

"It was wrong and it was a terrible mistake to make, which cost lives."

A total of 213 coronavirus deaths have been registered locally and over 50 of them were in care establishments.

Larkfield View owners Holmes Care said: “Like the majority of care homes across Scotland, we have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus, and have sadly lost a number of residents to this disease.

“At every stage of this crisis, our staff have gone above and beyond to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all our residents.

"This has included following all public health and Scottish Government advice on infection prevention and control, ensuring staff have adequate supplies of PPE and, now that testing is available, regular staff and resident Covid-19 tests."

Balclutha owners Barchester said they'd had no new cases since January.

A spokesman added: "We are deeply saddened by the losses and we send our condolences to all family and friends affected.

"The team have very high standards, and they are continuing to work relentlessly to do all they can to keep residents and staff safe.

"Our thoughts are with our residents, their families and friends and we are forever thankful for their kind support and kind wishes.”

Meallmore, who own Kincaid House and Belleaire, have disputed the figures released this week, saying their count of the number of Covid-19 deaths at Kincaid House is eight.

A spokeswoman added: "Over the last year, all feasible measures were taken to minimise the potential outbreak of Covid-19.

"Regrettably, there were a number of cases at both Kincaid and Belleaire.

"Very sadly, eight residents at Kincaid House and two ​residents at Belleaire House died either following a positive Covid-19 test or where Covid-19 was presumed prior to testing being available.

“Our hearts go out to every family and friend who has lost a loved one during this very difficult time.

"We would also like to acknowledge our hard-working colleagues who have shown huge dedication and commitment to residents, and who also feel each loss personally."

Sir Gabriel Wood's Mariners' Home, Merino Court, Marchmont, Glenfield and Belleaire all had less than five deaths, with the exact numbers not disclosed for 'confidentiality reasons'.

Local charity Greenock Medical Aid Society runs both Bagatelle, which had six deaths, and Glenfield, where there were under five.

Chief executive Andrea Wylie said: "In the early days of the pandemic, prior to knowledge of asymptomatic transmission, prior to regular testing and access to adequate PPE, we lost some of our beloved residents.

"Our teams at the time and since, have worked extremely hard and sacrificially to stop any further cases and further outbreak."

Merino Court in Greenock, which is run by HC-One and is one of the larger care home in Inverclyde, recorded less than five deaths after refusing to accept hospital admissions during the first wave and for most of last year.

The Scottish Government say that care home size is strongly related to outbreaks and there was no statistical evidence that hospital discharges were associated with care home outbreaks.

A spokesman added: “We mourn every death from Covid-19 and express our sympathy for all those who have lost loved ones, and for the distress and grief experienced by individuals and their families.

“As the First Minister and health secretary have previously said the Scottish Government will continue to learn lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic and, subject to the outcome of the Scottish Parliament election, intends to have a full public inquiry which considers all aspects of how the pandemic has been handled, including the impact on care homes and their residents."