Nursing homes and residents "left isolated" in early stages of pandemic 1 month ago

Nursing homes and residents "left isolated" in early stages of pandemic

"The dismay will live forever with us."

Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, has told the Special Oireachtas Committee on Ireland's Covid-19 response that key state organisations left nursing homes and residents isolated at the early stages of the pandemic.

The Committee is sitting today in three two-hour sessions, with the first two focusing on the State's response to the pandemic in relation to nursing homes.

As of Monday 25 May, there have been 878 deaths related to Covid-19 in Irish nursing homes, representing 54.5% of the total number of fatalities here.

Daly spoke of a lack of engagement between Minister for Health Simon Harris and Nursing Homes Ireland in the early stages of the crisis.

A large tranche of communications between the two and deliberated by the committee seemed to corroborate this; that while there was, as noted by Mr Daly, regular engagement with Department officials, repeated requests for a meeting with the Minister were not complied with.

Simon Harris did meet with Tadhg Daly on 30 March, and there are now twice-weekly meetings between the pair.

Daly also argued that the transfer of patients from acute hospital settings to nursing homes without testing, as would have been protocol at the time, was one of the factors for the spread of Covid-19 in nursing homes.

When pushed for data relating to this by Social Democrats TD Róisin Shorthall, he said that the fact that 40% of nursing home cases of Covid-19 are asymptomatic suggest this.

Mr Daly's claims were challenged repeatedly by Fine Gael TDs Fergus O'Dowd and Jennifer Carroll-MacNeill, who pointed to regular communication between Nursing Homes Ireland and the Department of Health throughout March, as well as raising questions about the privatisation of nursing homes in Ireland and the lack of compliance within the sector.

Issues relating to testing, the lack of PPE and what was labelled an "aggressive" recruitment of nursing home staff to acute hospital settings all left the nursing home sector vulnerable to an outbreak, argued Mr Daly.

A number of questions were also raised by multiple TDs about the plan going forward for nursing homes, and the need for regular testing to prevent further outbreaks. Tadhg Daly said that they agree with an ECDC report last week that recommends weekly testing of staff and residents, and they would be presenting a paper on this to NPHET and the expert advisory group this week.

The Oireachtas Committee will continue sitting this afternoon.