Half of Ireland’s nursing homes inspected over confirmed cases of Covid-19 complied with infection prevention standards, an inspector found.
However, one had left bedroom doors open for residents who had tested positive for Covid-19.
In another, staff were observed caring for residents in close proximity without using surgical masks, in line with official health guidance.
Proper cleaning and sanitary practices were hampered in some centres by inadequacies associated with the layout of the physical premises.
Some nursing homes were also challenged in their efforts to maintain proper infection prevention and control standards due to staff shortages, as many workers were affected by Covid-19 themselves, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) said.
Its report said: “It is the opinion of the chief inspector that the current regulation on infection prevention and control in nursing homes are not commensurate with what is required to respond and manage a Covid-19 outbreak.”
Nursing homes have been at the epicentre of a disease outbreak which has proven most deadly for the frail and elderly.
The report pointed to shortcomings in ageing accommodation, the impact of the infection on staff sickness and harm caused to mental well-being through fear and isolation.
Residents were deeply grateful to staff in homes for the care provided in what were extremely challenging circumstances, the inspection said.
The report added: “Some of our inspectors were struck by the damaging effect that the pandemic has had on staff and management in many nursing homes.
“Many staff members and managers were working extremely long hours in very challenging conditions.
“They often questioned if they were doing enough to care for their residents and keep them safe.”
The report said most homes were found to be compliant with the regulations and had comprehensive contingency plans in place for suspected or confirmed cases.
Many have remained Covid-free.
The inspectors said: “The continued use of multi-occupancy rooms and outmoded premises in some nursing homes (due to end at the end of 2021) undoubtedly created a situation where the spread of infection was difficult to contain.”
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the country’s nursing homes did quite well in containing the virus’ spread.
He added: “In the initial response, all of the emphasis was on the acute services for understandable reasons, in terms of protecting ICU and so on. There was a very significant spread of the virus in nursing homes which caused loss of life and that has happened in other societies. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.”
Mr Martin said more support, protective equipment and testing facilities have been given to nursing homes since the crisis struck.