Louise O’Reilly TD questions if enough was done to protect nursing homes given new HSE guidelines on transfer of residents to hospitals
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has queried if the government did enough to protect nursing homes and keep COVID-19 from them considering new HSE guidelines instructing that residents in residential care who are COVID-19 Positive should be managed in their facilities and should only be transferred to a hospital if it will confer additional benefit.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Since the beginning of the COVID19 crisis we knew two things for certain – i) the virus would put incredible strain on our health services, and ii) it predominantly affected older people more.
“In spite of this, there were few precautionary structures proactively put in place to help and protect the nursing home sector.
“Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) were acutely aware of the risk and implemented nationwide visiting restrictions on private facilities on March 4th. By March 10th, officials said the visiting restrictions were premature and should be lifted, but just three days later the visiting ban was re-imposed as part of a package of restrictive measures announced by the government.
“On top of this, the nursing home sector was plagued by delays in receiving Personnel Protective Equipment for staff. A NHI survey of their members on 7th and 8th of April highlighted how 29% of respondent facilities were still awaiting PPE supplies while 25% said the PPE they received was not-fit-for purpose.
“It is in this context that the rate of COVID19 infections in the nursing home sector began to increase and we now have 200 clusters in the nursing home network of 560 homes. In addition, more than half of the COVID19 deaths so far in the state have been of people in our nursing homes and we currently hold the second highest mortality rate in care homes across Europe.
“The question here is if the HSE guidelines were changed to reflect that residents in residential care who are COVID-19 positive are to be managed in their facilities and should only be transferred to a hospital if it will confer additional benefit, then why were they not locked down first with a definitive and robust plan to protect their residents and staff?
“Despite of the catastrophic planning failures for nursing homes at the beginning of this crisis, we must do all we can to protect residents and staff in our nursing homes, and all residential facilities for that matter.
“Fast tacking the implementation of the package of measures agreed last weekend as well as increasing staffing supports and PPE provision will hopefully stop the chains of transmission in the nursing home sector.”
Note to editors: A copy of the questions Deputy O’Reilly will be putting to the Minister for Health can be found below;
1. To ask the Minister for Health what plans and protections were put in place to protect residents and staff in Nursing Homes before the HSE memorandum ‘Preliminary Clinical and Infection Control Guidance for COVID-19 in nurse- led Residential Care Facilities (RCF)’ was circulated to nursing homes instructing that residents in residential care who are COVID-19 Positive should be managed in their facilities and should only be transferred to a hospital if it will confer additional benefit.
2. To ask the Minister for Health why on 10th March the Chief Medical officer at the Department of Health said the visiting restrictions in Nursing Homes were premature and should be lifted, but just three days later the visiting ban was re-imposed as part of a package of restrictive measures announced by the government.