Almost 20 residents evacuated from Donegal care home

Irish Red Cross said there were fears residents could be exposed to coronavirus

Almost 20 residents were evacuated from a care home in Co Donegal last weekend after a number of staff fell ill and concerns were raised about a possible outbreak of Covid-19.

Volunteers from the Irish Red Cross assisted the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Civil Defence in the evacuation at the Rock Community Hospital in Ballyshannon on April 11th after staffing pressures were created due to a number of carers there being off sick.

Concerns were also raised about the potential risk of an outbreak of Covid-19 at the facility. All 19 residents were transferred to St Joseph’s Community Hospital, Stranorlar as a result.

In a statement to The Irish Times, the HSE said: “The Rock Community Hospital is an old building and this action was taken due to Covid-19 in the best interests of patient safety and in accordance with public health and infection control guidance.

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“All families/guardians were contacted and explained the rationale behind why their loved ones were being moved. We wish to apologise to all patients and their families for any inconvenience caused.

“We will continue to review and assess the situation and ensure that any actions that we take are in the overall interest of maintaining the health and safety of our patients.”

The HSE also said that it wanted to “sincerely thank” the Irish Red Cross for its assistance with the transfer of residents.

Volunteer response

Valerie McGrath, assistant area director of units at the Donegal branch of the Irish Red Cross, said she received a request for assistance from the HSE and that volunteers responded and began the task of transporting the residents.

As there was the potential risk that the residents had been exposed to Covid-19, all volunteers were supplied with personal protective equipment (PPE).

She said it took just minutes for volunteers to assemble when they were called upon to help with an emergency evacuation at the facility.

“I got a phone call that morning that we were needed at the care home,” she said. “We have a group chat for training so straight away I put a message into the group saying: ‘Right folks, I need three crews straight away, let me know who’s free.’

“That was at three minutes past 11 and in minutes I had three crews filled, so that’s six volunteers in total, and we were all together on the ground within 25 minutes. Everyone was really eager to help out.

“We were provided with full PPE so there were precautions put in place and then we could just concentrate on getting them to somewhere safer. Every one of us was like, ‘Well this is what we’re here for’. Nobody there is thinking ‘oh we’re heroes’ – this is just what we signed up for.

“There was one man who had misplaced his hearing aids and with everything going on nobody had time to tell to him what was happening, so I found a piece of paper and wrote down and explained to him that they were being moved. We were able to reassure the residents who might have been worried otherwise.”

Three Irish Red Cross ambulances, as well as ambulances from the HSE and Civil Defence were in involved in the transfer.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter