Q&A: Just how bad is the situation regarding nursing homes?

Just how bad is the situation regarding nursing homes?
Q&A: Just how bad is the situation regarding nursing homes?

Noel Baker answers your questions:

Just how bad situation regarding nursing homes?

The chief inspector of social services with the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), Mary Dunnion, said almost one-third of nursing homes have the Covid-19 virus.

What about the number of deaths?

Dr Siobhán Ní Bhriain, national lead for integrated care with the HSE, said she does not know for sure that all deaths from Covid-19 in nursing homes and care centres have been reported as such and that this will now be reviewed.

This is on foot of the tragic events at the Maryborough Centre in Portlaoise, where eight residents died from coronavirus in just three days, alongside the death of another resident.

What happens if a nursing home resident tests positive for Covid-19? Are they left where they are?

No, they can be transferred.

Ms Dunnion, speaking on Morning Ireland said: “It is [possible to transfer them] and that does happen.”

She added: “There is no message to say they must stay in the nursing home.”

Could the issue of Covid-19 clusters in nursing homes have been foreseen?

To an extent, it was — back in the first week of March, Nursing Homes Ireland brought in restrictions for 400 voluntary and private nursing homes so that no non-essential visits by children or groups would be allowed.

However, it is acknowledged that those in nursing homes are in community settings and are a particularly vulnerable group.

So what is being done and what can be done to improve the situation?

Ms Dunnion said the early testing and early results of those tests are vital for residents and staff at nursing homes, particularly to limit the extent to which healthcare workers in those facilities have to be absent from offering care because they are awaiting a result.

She also said additional resources are needed at a national level with regard to items such as PPE, oxygen, and palliative care requirements.

What about staffing?

The major response to that issue was the deal struck between the various unions, including the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, and the HSE to redeploy healthcare workers into nursing homes.

In community healthcare organisation area 4 — Cork and Kerry — Dr Emer Ahern said clinical response teams have been formed — from primary and community healthcare settings — so people are effectively on call to respond to staffing needs in nursing homes and congregated settings.

What about the regular inspections carried out by Hiqa? Are these continuing?

Those regular inspections have had to be suspended so as to limit the level of exposure of staff and residents to Covid-19.

However, a Hiqa spokesperson said there has been no increase in the number of non-Covid 19-related notifications, complaints, and concerns to the authority.

So not quite business as usual then?

Hiqa continues to monitor the care provided in designated centres for older people by conducting registration inspections, receiving mandatory notifications from providers, receiving risk-rating unsolicited information, supporting providers and staff of nursing homes via Hiqa’s Infection Prevention and Control Hub, and monitoring key areas of care and welfare regulations.

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department - if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999 and in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999

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