The HSE Chief Operating Officer has said staff are more likely to bring COVID-19 into nursing homes than patients.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Anne O'Connor said patients are not transferred from hospitals into nursing homes unless they have tested negative for the virus twice.
She rejected claims that a relaxation of that rule led to the spike in cases – and said the movement of staff is a bigger danger to nursing homes than the movement of the residents themselves.
“Nobody really know how the virus gets in because, bear in mind, this virus is not visible initially,” she said.
“We have people who are asymptomatic, who could be anyone, they might not be residents at all and in reality, the risk associated with nursing homes is more to do with the movement of staff.
“In nursing homes, the residents themselves don’t go in and out a lot and that is why we have been focusing on staff and reducing the cross working of staff between facilities – or at least working with the private nursing homes to support them to be able to do that.”
She said all staff and residents were tested in the 371 nursing homes that recorded outbreaks.
The testing programme has nearly completed testing of all staff members in the rest of the country's nursing homes.
Ms O’Connor warned that testing can only provide a result for a certain point in time, with people who test negative at one point, testing positive later.
She said the HSE provided hundreds of additional staff to private nursing homes at the peak of the crisis – with over 400 HSE staff still deployed in residential care settings.
She said the HSE had provided €27m worth of Personal Protective Equipment to private nursing homes by the beginning of May.
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