Covid status in care homes remains 'precarious,' says Nursing Homes Ireland

Covid status in care homes remains 'precarious,' says Nursing Homes Ireland

117 homes have not been able to complete their vaccination programme due to Covid outbreaks. Picture: PA

Nursing homes remain in a “precarious” situation, the head of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) will tell the Health Committee on Tuesday.

The Committee will also hear from representatives of the HSE and Department of Health in a session dedicated to nursing homes and the pandemic.

The HSE confirmed 181 open outbreaks in nursing homes at the end of the week, and said 117 homes have not been able to complete their vaccination programme. 

Another four are coping with such large outbreaks they were not able to even start vaccinating residents.

"Extreme pressure"

Tadhg Daly will say: “The situation remains precarious and those impacted by the virus are under extreme pressure.” The majority of the 587 homes do not currently have an outbreak, but Mr Daly will say the stress caused by large numbers of staff absent due to Covid is widespread.

The HSE has estimated there were about 1,500 staff absent across the homes last week either for being ill with Covid-19 or being a close contact of a confirmed case.

Mr Daly will praise aspects of the vaccine roll-out. However the slow start to the programme will be highlighted, as only 10% of the initial 77,000 vaccinations administered by mid-January were within nursing homes.

“It is appropriate to remind that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee agreed nursing home residents and staff would be priority 1.

“The first vaccines arrived in Ireland on December 26 yet the first was only administered in a private or voluntary nursing home on January 7, 2021. Every day is vital for our nursing home residents and staff,” he will say.

There has been closer cooperation between nursing homes and the HSE during the pandemic than in the years before, and Mr Daly will call for this to continue.

“Residential care of our ageing population cannot be allowed drift from your consciousness – you the legislators responsible for health policy and resourcing,” he will say to the politicians on the Committee.

Residents isolated

As part of these plans for the future, he would like to see the 2017 Pricing Review for costs in the public and private sector published.

One of the hardest aspects of the pandemic for this sector has been the isolation imposed on residents, and the separate from their families.

Mr Daly is hopeful this will end, and that normal interactions can resume during this coming year.

Nursing Homes Ireland have worked with the Department of Justice to streamline applications processes for employment permits, and he will describe how this has benefited the individual staff and the sector generally.

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