The chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, Tadhg Daly has said that today’s meeting of the Dáil’s Covid-19 committee is not about “pointing the finger” or apportioning blame.
Health Information and Quality Authority chief executive Phelim Quinn is expected to raise major shortcomings in the oversight of care for the most vulnerable citizens in nursing homes, the people most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. He is also expected to point out that the current model of private residential care for older persons has no formal clinical governance links with the Health Service Executive.
“There will be plenty of time for recriminations,” Mr Daly told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland. “Today is about getting a picture of what occurred.”
There was a shared responsibility for the sector, he said.
Earlier on Newstalk Breakfast Mr Daly had said that it had been a particularly challenging period for the health service generally, but that the nursing homes sector had been literally at the frontline of the pandemic.
“Ultimately this is not about finger-pointing, this is about learning from the mistakes that were made.”
Mr Daly said there were four issues Nursing Home Ireland will be highlighting before the Covid-19 Committee today. One was the issue of testing, there was insufficient testing of both residents and staff at an early stage, particularly given the large numbers of asymptomatic people in nursing homes.
“PPE obviously was a huge, huge issue - not just for nursing homes, for the entire health service - and that had a huge impact. We also suffered in the nursing home sector by what we would term aggressive recruitment by the HSE, very much in the early stages.”
The most significant issue, he said, was the fact that large numbers of people were transferred from acute hospitals into nursing homes without being tested.
Clearly the health service was getting the acute hospital system ready for that surge - getting ICU beds ready - and that was the appropriate thing to do. But there was a blind spot, in terms of ensuring that those residents who were discharged should have been tested prior to discharge from the acute hospitals.
Mr Daly said that nursing homes are still being asked to take patients from acute hospitals without appropriate testing.
“It's still an issue for us and that's unforgivable in my mind. Clearly what you don't know in terms of what you can't measure, you can't manage as it were.”
Mr Daly told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that Ireland as a society had not been prepared for the global pandemic even though it was known, from the experience in Italy, that older people would be more vulnerable.
“Clearly lessons will have to be learned by all of us.”
Earlier: Nursing Homes Ireland to appear before Covid-19 committee
Nursing Homes Ireland will tell the Covid-19 committee today the sector was "exasperated" the government's focus in battle against the virus was "almost exclusively" on hospitals.
Tadhg Daly will appear before the special committee to address what went wrong in nursing homes.
The devastation caused by Covid-19 on the nursing home sector is one of the most poignant of all the tragedies associated with the pandemic.
Almost half of all the deaths in Ireland from the disease occurred in these settings and there have been 264 care home clusters.
In their opening statement, the NHI will say one of the key challenges they faced was the failure to test patients being discharged from hospitals to nursing home for the disease.
Mr Daly said this happened because the health sector was preparing for an expected surge that never materialised.
Mr Daly will also criticise the National Treatment Purchase fund, which is responsible for commissioning nursing home care, for "falling silent" as the homes incurred huge costs
For its part, the Health Information Quality Authority will note that 80% of nursing homes are privately run and it says that because of this the HSE did not have a relationship with them.