Lack of statutory clinical oversight of care for residents in private nursing homes is one of the “biggest weaknesses” exposed by Covid-19, an Oireachtas committee has found.
The Special Committee on Covid-19 Response is calling for urgent action to protect nursing homes in the event of a second wave of the coronavirus.
Committee chairman, Deputy Michael McNamara, said deaths in nursing homes accounted for 56% of all deaths, a statistic that showed how older and more vulnerable people were disproportionately affected.
"A clinical director needs to be appointed to every nursing home, as was introduced in the UK in May of this year in direct response to the pandemic," said Mr McNamara.
The recommendation is among 19 made in the Interim Report on Covid-19 in Nursing Homes.
A review of the nursing home sector had "tightened up" the discharge of patients from acute hospitals to nursing homes through testing and isolation procedures.
“However, the fact that the HSE still facilitates the placement of older persons in a nursing home with known infection control risks is, in the view of the committee, indefensible. This practice must stop," said Mr McNamara.
The committee plans to return to the issue again in September after examining the Health Information and Quality Authority report on the impact of Covid-19 on nursing homes and the forthcoming report from the expert advisory panel on the matter.
Mr McNamara said the committee would then decide how to continue the investigation and whether a public inquiry was necessary.
Nursing Homes Ireland’s chief executive, Tadhg Daly, said he hoped the committee would get to the bottom of HIQA’s role on the National Public Health Emergency Team that failed to focus on nursing homes at the outset of the pandemic.