Nursing Homes Ireland CEO: Residents and carers left 'isolated' by Government's Covid response

Nursing home residents and their carers were left “isolated” by key State bodies at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Dáil’s Covid-19 committee will be told.
Nursing Homes Ireland CEO: Residents and carers left 'isolated' by Government's Covid response
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Key State bodies left nursing home residents and their carers “isolated” at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Dáil’s Covid-19 committee will be told.

In a blistering opening address, Nursing Homes Ireland CEO Tadhg Daly will tell TDs on Tuesday that the response to Covid-19 that “the dismay will live forever with us.”

“We were exasperated. The sector required a specific plan. We knew that Covid-19 disproportionately impacts on older people.

"The planning and focus was almost exclusively on our acute hospitals. Multiple clusters initially emerged in our hospitals. But the numbers in nursing homes started to increase,” he will say.

His statement, obtained by the Irish Examiner, hit out at the failure to properly test hundreds of patients discharged from acute hospitals before entering nursing homes.

“We were already aware people in our homes would be amongst the most susceptible to the virus and a national strategy and response was required. In the absence of such, the challenges emerged.

"These were versed publicly: insufficient testing of residents and staff; mass shortfall of PPE - providers have suppliers they would utilise to source such equipment but they were informed of a global shortage when they sought to source such and the HSE had priority over limited supplies; aggressive recruitment of nursing home staff initially by the HSE and discharges from acute hospitals to nursing homes without testing,” Mr Daly will tell TDs.

Mr Daly will say the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), the authority responsible for the commissioning of nursing home care, "fell silent" as homes incurred "considerable and responsible costs" to manage the pandemic.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), also appearing before the committee today, will tell TDs that there is "no national clinical oversight of care being delivered to some of our most vulnerable citizens".

The State body, charged with improving health and social care and enforcing standards, will also say the the current model of residential care for older people has "no formal governance links with the Health Service Executive".

In his opening statement, the Chief Executive of HIQA Phelim Quinn will say that 80% of nursing homes are operated by private providers and the Health Service Executive did not know the sector when the pandemic hit.

He will say that the infrastructure required by the HSE to support the private sector was "under resourced" and became "increasingly challenged".

Mr Quinn will outline a number of challenges faced by private nursing homes regarding timely testing and results, access to sustainable levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) and base line staff numbers including senior nursing expertise in infection control.

He is expected to say that on 18 March, HIQA offered to assist the HSE in liaising with private nursing homes due to the fact that there was no established relationship.

Mr Quinn will say from 1 April, the organisation requested a more formal escalation pathway for a more strategic coordinated approach to: the supply of PPE, resident and staff testing results, a longer term approach to staffing and infection control advice.

He will add that: "HIQA believes that the quality and safety of our health and social care services would be greatly improved by a review of the current regulatory framework and the introduction of an accountability framework."

In relation to the Skellig Star Hotel in Cahirciveen, the HSE will tell members the first suspected cases of Covid-19 among residents in the Centre were identified on March 30th (tested on March 31st- tests went to Germany) with the first positive case confirmed on April 13th.

Testing of all residents and staff took place between April 18th and April 21st. When the results of that testing were available, a total of 21 residents and 3 staff were identified as Covid-19 positive, members will be told. The total number of Covid-19 detected cases was 22 residents and 3 staff.

TDs will hear all residents who tested positive were facilitated to transfer to an isolation facility in Cork City. Following this self-isolation, the residents from Cahirciveen who were in the isolation facility in Cork were re-accommodated by the Department of Justice in different accommodation centres. All residents and staff recovered and are healthy.

The Department of Justice will say it relocated over 600 residents, about 7% of the total population over a period from mid-March to early April, to support social and physical distancing in centres and enable cocooning measures to be out in place for the most vulnerable.

“This I know has caused some controversy as we moved residents with much less notice than normal and with less of the interactions with local communities that have become part of a better engagement with communities as we work to try and ensure decent accommodation for our residents,” Aidan O’ Driscoll, Secretary General of the Department of Justice will say.

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