Covid-19 notification service for families of those living in disability centres

Covid-19 notification service for families of those living in disability centres

The government has instructed the HSE to look at a standard way of telling families when a Covid-19 outbreak hits a residential service for people with intellectual disabilities.

The initiative emerged following talks between Inclusion Ireland, Health Minister Simon Harris and Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath at which it was confirmed 10 people had died in disability service so far from coronavirus.

The meeting had been called amid growing concerns about how Covid-19 was being dealt with in centres for people with a disability, with congregated settings of various types appearing to bear the brunt of the pandemic here.

Prior to the meeting Inclusion Ireland had expressed concern about a lack of reporting of the number of people with disabilities within institutions who have died from Covid-19, given that there are almost 3,000 people with intellectual disabilities living in institutional settings.

Following the meeting Inclusion Ireland CEO Enda Egan described the talks as "very constructive".

Mr Egan said the minister had reassured him of fresh efforts to deal with Covid-19 in the centres.

That will include detailed data being collected by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) on people with disabilities and Covid-19, with the Department of Health to hold discussions with the HSPC about making this data available to the public on a regular basis.

It also emerged that while 90% of disability services are free of the coronavirus and those that have an outbreak are, by and large, managing well, there have been 10 deaths in disability services so far in the course of the current public health emergency.

Inclusion Ireland also said it has been reassured that there is “parity and equality of access” to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for disability services based on need, similar to the situation in hospitals and nursing homes.

Inclusion Ireland also said the Health Minister has agreed that a standardised communication protocol should be put in place for service providers to communicate with families when an outbreak occurs in a residential setting for people with disabilities. 

"The HSE will be looking at developing such a protocol," it said.

Mr Harris also informed Inclusion Ireland that the HSE has developed a pathway plan for when a carer becomes ill and has to go into hospital, and that there will be an emergency response on “a case by case basis”.

All parties will hold another meeting in a fortnight to review progress on the various initiatives discussed on Monday.

Mr Egan said: "I would like to thank Minister Harris for engaging with Inclusion Ireland, and listening to the concerns of people with intellectual disabilities and their families have in relation to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic."

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