COVID restrictions in nursing homes are still very much needed, the CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland has said.
During the first stages of the pandemic, Ireland was described as being “at the higher end of the scale” for fatalities in nursing homes - with care home residents accounting for some 62% of deaths, against an international average of 25%.
While the acute phase of pandemic has come to an end, the virus is still in circulation and even elderly people who have had their booster jabs remain vulnerable.
“There has been an increase in open outbreaks,” Tadhg Daly told The Pat Kenny Show.
“The numbers last week from the health protection surveillance centre was something of the order of 320 open outbreaks with 43 in the last week alone.
“That is a concern but I think it is important as well to say, and let your listeners know, that the profile of illness among residents thankfully is not anywhere near [as bad] as in previous waves of the pandemic.
“So people are not as sick but there is a concern because once COVID gets into a setting, it has a huge impact on the residents and critically, if COVID is introduced, residents then have to isolate.”
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Since Monday, people no longer have to wear face masks in shops or on public transport. However, they are still advised to wear them in healthcare settings, including nursing homes, although it is not mandated by legislation.
“People should wear masks when they enter and leave the building but they may take off the mask, for example, when they’re sitting with a resident,” Mr Daly explained.
“And that can make sense because clearly, if a resident has cognitive difficulties, the mask is prohibiting meaningful contact.
“But what we’re saying from an organisational point of view, the guidance from our own national nursing committee is that facemasks should be continued to be worn for the duration of visit.”
While most visitors comply, there has been pushback from a small minority of people who think COVID is no longer a cause for concern.
“The vast majority of people understand the guidance, support the guidance and adhere to the guidance,” Mr Daly added.
“But I do know from talking to members over the past number of days that there are a small number of people who feel that the pandemic is over.
“And clearly, the pandemic is not over… People still need to be vigilant in society at large but more particularly in any healthcare setting.”
Main image: Mike Padgham (right) visits his 93-year-old mother Phyllis Padgham (centre) with Activities Assistant Charlotte Henderson (left) at St Cecilia's Nursing Home. Picture by: PA.