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Nursing homes ‘at frontline’ of pandemic

April 20th, 2020 7:05 AM

By Jackie Keogh

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NURSING homes are on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic in this country, Drimoleague man Tadhg Daly, the chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, has said.

On Wednesday evening, the Department of Health reported there had been a total of 444 deaths to date in Ireland, and a total of 12,547 confirmed cases.

The anticipated ‘surge’ in cases is being seen in nursing homes across the country, with 290 deaths recorded in care settings, including nursing homes. The statistics show that deaths in nursing and care homes account for more than half of the deaths linked to the virus.

Dr Emer Ahern, a consultant geriatrician at CUH, said: ‘We haven’t seen the anticipated surge in our hospitals yet, but we certainly are seeing the surge in nursing homes and residential facilities.’

However, the consultant stressed the point that ‘most older people will recover from this illness, whether at home or in nursing homes.’

‘What we have seen in the last number of weeks is that a large number of patients have been transferred from the acute hospitals into nursing homes,’ Tadhg Daly told The Southern Star.

He said: ‘This, in effect, means that nursing homes are on the frontline of this Covid-19 pandemic and dealing with the surge that people were talking about in the acute hospitals.’

Mr Daly said that some of the supports that were promised by the Health Minister Simon Harris on April 4th – such as the establishment of a national and regional Covid-19 prevention and control team to deal with nursing homes – have not yet materialised at regional level.

He also said the promised supply of personal protection equipment and oxygen to care homes has also been ‘very mixed’.

‘Some of our nursing homes have not received adequate – in terms of quantity or indeed the quality – personal protective equipment,’ he added.

‘A lot of operators would have sourced their own PPE, but I am confident that they have a sufficient supply to meet their day to day needs.’

However, as an added protection, he called for a three-day supply for every nursing home in the country.

He advised worried families to stay in contact with the staff of the nursing home and to trust the staff ‘because they are doing an excellent job in difficult circumstances’.

‘We would also encourage people to use Facetime and Skype to keep up the connection with family members in the nursing home.’

And, in a bid to reassure nursing home residents themselves, Mr Daly said there is full transparency around the statistics in Ireland and, despite the numbers of outbreaks in nursing homes, the vast majority do not currently have an outbreak.

Mr Daly confirmed that many of his.   staff out awaiting test results and this has added to our staffing challenge.’

The CEO welcomed the fact that ‘progress is being made with regard to testing,’ but he acknowledged that ‘it was a huge source of frustration to the sector over the last number of weeks.’

A nursing home operator in the region also spoke to The Southern Star. While there have been no reported cases of Covid-19 at his facilities, he said his organisation had received ‘absolutely nothing’ from the HSE in the way of personal protective equipment, but he said the situation ‘has improved’.

He said: ‘We basically took it in our own hands and procured the PPE ourselves, at our own expense, from a number of wholesalers.’

The nursing home operator added: ‘In fairness to the HSE, if we had an outbreak, I believe we, together with the HSE, would be well equipped to respond.’

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