Staff shortages caused by Covid outbreaks "may require the temporary redeployment of staff” between nursing homes, despite previous advice warning against this practice.
It comes after a large number of Covid-19 outbreaks have been reported in nursing homes across the country.
Data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) indicated there were more than 165 open outbreaks, “which is over five times the amount of nursing home outbreaks open in mid-December”.
Minister of State at the Department of Health Mary Butler explained that the HSE indicated that more than 1,000 nursing home staff were absent as a result of Covid-19.
The minister gave this information in response to a Parliamentary Question brought by Fergus O'Dowd, who asked the minister if the information was available on whether nursing homes were observing the recommendation of the Nursing Home Expert Panel report.
This report, released last August, contains a range of recommendations in line with lessons learned to date and international best practice, aimed to safeguard the residents in nursing homes.
One of the 86 of the recommendations of the report said: “For the next 18 months or until the declaration of the end of the Global pandemic by WHO, staff employed by a nursing home should be precluded from working across multiple sites and adequate single-site employment contracts should be put in place to support this.”
However, Ms Butler explained that recent outbreaks were placing significant challenges on nursing homes and that despite activating all of the available and established supports, staffing, “particularly nursing staff” remains a challenge.
In her response, the minister said: “Having regard to the current challenges, it is necessary to prioritise adequate levels of staffing in nursing homes, which may require the temporary redeployment of staff to other facilities to support safe care for residents.
“Where possible, the HSE is redeploying its own staff to other public and private nursing homes to support the safe delivery of care,” she added.
As of the week ending January 16, figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre show there have been 545 outbreaks in nursing homes and community hospital/long stay units, with 10,566 linked laboratory-confirmed cases, notified in since March 01, of last year.