Nine residents of a Co Laois elder-care centre died over the bank holiday weekend, eight of whom had tested positive for the coronavirus.
They were aged between 66 and 84 years old.
The 17 remaining residents at the Maryborough Centre for Psychiatry of Old Age (which is not a nursing home), are being treated as if they are Covid-19 positive, regardless of test results or presence of symptoms.
While a number of staff are currently on sick leave, the HSE says the current staffing level is sufficient to manage the centre.
In a statement, the HSE said: “The HSE would like to express its sincere sympathies to the families and friends of the deceased.”
“Staff at the centre are in contact with the families of the deceased and are available for support and advice.”
A number of elder-care setting, including nursing homes, have seen clusters of Covid-19 in recent weeks.
Amanda Phelan, Professor of Ageing and Community Nursing, at Trinity College Dublin, says the situation in nursing homes has been chaotic:
"It's been more organised in recent days, but certainly it has been chaotic and we've seen the clusters rising," she said.
"Nursing homes are a huge challenge in terms of infection control and delivering good care."
The HSE’s National Lead for Integrated Care, Dr Siobhán Ní Bhriain said that the patients at the Maryborough centre, located in St Fintan's Campus, Portlaoise, were cared for by two consultants and a palliative care support team.
Efforts were made to identify which patients had the virus and those who did not so they could be separated, she explained to RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
The type of care at the centre was called "cohorting" she said, which meant there were a number of beds in one room.
If a patient was suspected of having Covid-19 they would be isolated and nursed separately, she said. This could be “very difficult” in some situations.
The Maryborough centre in Portlaoise was not a nursing home, she pointed out.
Meanwhile, the chief inspector of social services with HIQA ( the Health Information and Quality Authority) has said that almost one third of nursing homes have the Covid-19 virus.
Mary Dunnion told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that 80% vof nursing homes are run by private operators separate from the HSE and that 30% of nursing homes now have the virus, which makes it “really important” to enhance national support for the sector.
“This is a pandemic. It is unprecedented. Covid-19 is in the community and nursing homes are in the community and this vulnerable group has contracted it.”
Ms Dunnion confirmed that patients are being transferred from nursing homes to hospitals, but “this is not possible in all cases”.
“Every morning, we identify centres that need support” and this information is “escalated” to the HSE.
Ms Dunnion said that staffing is a real issue for nursing home providers and that speedier testing would be of benefit. At present 118 nursing homes are confirmed as having the virus with a further 72 centres suspected, she said.
Staff in those centres have to self isolate until it is confirmed that they have or do not have the virus, if they could be diagnosed quicker then they could return to their place of work, where they know their patients, she said.
Last night, it was confirmed two healthcare workers at hospital in Co. Kilkenny died from Covid-19 since last weekend.
A woman in her 50s and a man in his 40s both fell ill while working at St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny.
The woman died in the hospital on Wednesday and the man died at his home on Tuesday.