Staff at a nursing home in Dundalk are still struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after around a quarter of the home’s residents died from COVID-19 in the space of a month.
Twenty-two residents died from confirmed or suspected COVID-19 at Dealgan House nursing home in April.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, the home’s Assistant Director of Nursing Dolores Conroy said the home suffered a staffing crisis as the virus took hold – with 13 nurses and most of the management staff out sick.
She said she begged authorities for help as “things really started getting to crisis levels.”
“They knew we were in crisis,” she said. “We were in crisis from Monday April 6th – everybody knew we were in crisis.
“HIQA was asked for help. I begged them for help on April 6th. I asked them for Ireland on Call. I was not only managing the nursing home, I was also a nurse on the floor with no management in the building.”
Ms Conroy said staff have been “really struggling” in the weeks since.
“The staff that were here at the time were devastated with the loss because the residents are like our families and we see more of the residents than we do of our own families,” she said.
“The staff were hysterical here during the deaths because some days we had two deaths. Some people had no symptoms and just went to sleep and never woke up.
“Staff are still struggling with the after-effects, with panic attacks, with post-traumatic stress and some of our staff still have post-viral symptoms even now after having the COVID.”
She said nursing homes were “let down really badly” by the HSE – both in terms of the length of time it took to get results and the lack of nursing support.
“We should have got help sooner,” she said. “I felt we were really struggling and everybody knew we were struggling but the help wasn’t arriving. The HSE were trying to get help but the nurses were difficult to find.
“There were no nurses available on the agencies and there were no nurses available from the HSE when we were really in trouble.”
At the peak of the crisis the home’s director Fintan Farrelly wrote to the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warning that the failure to adequately protect nursing homes would be “identified as the greatest tragedy of the pandemic.”
He told Pat that even though officials at every level of the health service were doing everything they could to fight the virus, mistakes were made.
“Everybody acted to the best of their ability but they made decisions, some of which turned out maybe not to be correct,” he said.
“One of those perhaps was the emphasis that was put on the surge that was to happen in hospitals.
“On that Easter Sunday, we could see clearly that the surge was happening here and now with us.”
He said staff at the home worked 14-hour days seven days a week through the peak.
“They were fantastic and they provided the care that people needed in extremely difficult situations,” he said.
You can listen back to the full interview here: