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Head of Nursing Homes Ireland 'dismayed' at State response to COVID-19

Nursing home residents were left isolated by the State in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, ...
Newstalk
Newstalk

13.20 26 May 2020


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Head of Nursing Homes Ireland...

Head of Nursing Homes Ireland 'dismayed' at State response to COVID-19

Newstalk
Newstalk

13.20 26 May 2020


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Nursing home residents were left isolated by the State in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, according to Nursing Homes Ireland.

CEO Tadhg Daly has told the Dáil Special Committee on COVID-19 Response he was left exasperated by the exclusive focus on acute hospitals.

The Dáil committee has been hearing about the situation in nursing homes, with Mr Daly strongly critical of the Government's initial response.

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"There needs to be a greater appreciation that care of the older person is complex."

"During the first three months of the year, over 2,500 people entered nursing home care under the Fair Deal.

"A further 1,000 people every month transferred from our acute hospitals into private and voluntary nursing homes.

"Even during this national emergency, just 7% of COVID cases entailed transfer for the resident to hospital".

He also said preliminary research suggested that up to 40% of transmission was passed by asymptomatic persons.

"We were exasperated at the early stages and we felt that the sector required a very specific plan - we knew that COVID-19 disproportionately impacts on older people.

"The planning and focus was almost exclusively on our acute hospitals."

"Key State organisations left the nursing home sector and its residents isolated in those early days.

"The dismay will live forever with us.

"But we welcome Minister Harris' lead in eventually bringing senior officials from his department and the HSE around the table to support the sector, and indeed our residents, in coping with COVID-19.

"The evidence from Ireland international is that no individual element of the health service can manage the global pandemic presented by COVID-19".

But Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd hit back at that assessment - saying wealthy owners of private nursing homes could have done more to buy PPE.

"You are making the point that the State, or the HSE, or the minister or the department didn't assist you: I believe that they did.

"And I believe you could have a lot more for yourself, and you didn't do that".

More than 500 pages of correspondence between the Department of Health and Nursing Homes Ireland was delivered to TDs ahead of a committee meeting on Tuesday morning.

Among the documents it emerged one nursing home had to use painters overalls and goggles in lieu of personal protective equipment.

Nursing Homes Ireland says more should have been directed to nursing homes instead of entirely to acute hospitals.

Ahead of his appearance before the Dáil committee, Mr Daly told Newstalk Breakfast it was 'unforgivable' that people were transferred from acute hospitals to nursing homes without being tested for COVID-19.

He said: "One of the most significant issues of all for us was the fact that large numbers of people were transferred from the acute hospitals out into nursing homes without being tested.

"Clearly the health service was getting the acute hospital system ready for that surge - getting ICU beds ready - and that was the appropriate thing to do.

"But there was a blind spot, if you like, in terms of ensuring that those residents who were discharged should have been tested prior to discharge from the acute hospitals.

"And that to us was a significant factor in this particular challenge".

"Even in recent days we're still seeing situations whereby nursing homes are being requested to take patients from the acute hospitals to nursing homes without appropriate testing.

"It's still an issue for us and that's unforgivable in my mind."

Reporting by Sean Defoe and Jack Quann

Main image: Tadhg Daly appears before the Dáil Special Committee on COVID-19 Response. Image: Oireachtas screenshot

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