As nursing homes deal with two outbreaks of Covid-19, Nursing Homes Ireland says the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has not responded to numerous requests to meet it to discuss the health crisis.
“We view it as a failure by the minister that we have to keep endlessly pursuing him as this crisis escalates hour-by-hour, day-by-day,” said Nursing Home Ireland chief executive, Tadhg Daly.
“Given the large cohort of people in the nursing home sector, it beggars belief that he (Mr Harris) has not even picked up the phone to ring us.
“We have sent at least five letters and emails over the last four weeks requesting engagement directly with Mr Harris but what we got is the standard civil service reply - that the matter was receiving attention."
Issues of major concern include priority testing for Covid-19, staffing and the availability of personal protective equipment.
Mr Daly said there is a lack of consistency being applied by the HSE at local level in facilitating access to equipment.
“It is astonishing we are now well into a health crisis of a magnitude never presented before and the Minister for Health and his government have not engaged with a sector providing care to thousands of the most vulnerable people.”
When asked for a response, a spokesperson for the minister said he would meet with Nursing Home Ireland but did not elaborate further.
“Minister Harris is aware his department and the HSE are engaging with Nursing Home Ireland on a regular basis on the issues facing the nursing home industry during Covid-19.
"The minister will meet with Nursing Home Ireland," the spokesperson said.
Nursing homes are coping very well and trying to maintain a sense of normality as much as possible but the situation is very challenging, Mr Daly said.
"Members would be well used to dealing with enhanced infection control around the winter vomiting bug and seasonal flu but this is completely unchartered territory.
Failure to appropriately engage and support our sector will actually diminish the capacity of our health services and increase pressures upon acute hospitals.”