More must done to protect elderly and vulnerable people in the Covid-19 crisis, the president of public health at the Royal Society of Medicine has warned.
People aged over 65 account for about 22% of Covid-19 cases in Ireland and almost 90% of deaths.
Some 149 clusters have been recorded in nursing homes — one-third of the total number of clusters in Ireland.
Gabriel Scally, author of the Scally report into the CervicalCheck controversy, said it does not look as if a very good job has been done so far in protecting elderly and vulnerable people in nursing homes and care homes during the Covid-19 crisis.
He told RTÉ Radio’s News at One: “Of all the vulnerable people living in our community, those living in care homes and nursing homes strike me as being at the top of that list [those needing shielding] and it doesn’t look as if we’ve done a very good job on that so far.
It’s not just looking after the people in care homes, it’s also looking after staff who are looking after elderly and vulnerable people in the nursing homes, in the care homes, and in the community because community workers supporting elderly and vulnerable people might be visiting multiple houses in the one day.
Dr Scully’s remarks come as a new international study indicates that Irish nursing homes are being hit harder by the pandemic than comparative facilities in other countries.
The study of mortality rates in care homes shows that care home residents accounted for between 42% and 57% of all deaths related to Covid-19 in five European countries. In Ireland, this rate was 54%, higher than France, Belgium, or Italy, but lower than Spain, which has a rate of 57%.
The study, compiled by Adelina Comas-Herrera and Joseba Zalakain, includes data accurate as of April 11 for Ireland.
Due to differences in testing availability and policies, as well as different approaches to recording deaths, international comparisons are difficult, the authors said.
The report states: “There is growing international evidence that people living in care homes are particularly vulnerable to severe Covid-19 infections and that they are experiencing high rates of mortality as a result.”
“Very few” countries are implementing systematic testing of staff and residents, the authors said.