Coronavirus: At least 750 home carers to be redeployed to nursing homes

Sick nursing home residents will no longer be sent to hospital for treatment

Another 14 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 have died, the National Public Health Emergency Team have reported, with 212 new cases recorded. Video: RTE News Now

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Hundreds of home carers are to be redeployed to nursing and residential care homes to plug staffing gaps caused by outbreaks of coronavirus.

Separately, public health officials have said most nursing home residents who contract the disease will not be sent to hospital for treatment, in an attempt to break the chain of transmission of the disease.

The deaths of another 14 patients – seven males and seven females – diagnosed with Covid-19 were reported on Wednesday by the National Public Health Emergency Team.

Ten of the deaths were in the east and four in the south. Eight of the patients were reported as having underlying health conditions. There have now been 85 Covid-19 related deaths in the Republic.

The emergency team also reported 212 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, lower than in the two previous days. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 3,447.

Under measures agreed between the HSE and Home and Community Care Ireland, carers will be temporarily redeployed from caring for low-dependency clients in their homes if they can be looked after by family members who are self-isolating.

The redeployed carers will provide support for nursing homes and for higher-dependency clients requiring home care.

Cluster concerns

Between 750 and 1,000 carers, and possibly more if the crisis continues, are expected to be redeployed under the agreement. The emergence of 24 clusters of the disease in nursing homes has depleted staff and caused widespread concern about the impact on vulnerable residents.

The HSE will work with people receiving home care to determine who is willing to have the service temporarily suspended, according to HCCI.

“Carers will only be redeployed where this makes sense for clients and if they have family who can, temporarily, take over the carer’s role,” said Joseph Musgrave, chief executive of HCCI. “Once the Covid-19 crisis abates, and people go back to work, we understand from our conversations with the HSE that home care will be reinstated for these clients.”

More than 3,000 people receiving home care are self-isolating, leaving carers unable to perform their normal duties.

Residents of nursing homes and other residential care institutions who contract Covid-19 should be kept in the homes if there is no “clinical or other advantage” to them being moved, according to the emergency team.

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said nursing homes would provide “as much care as possible” for residents who contracted Covid-19.

Normally, the policy is to send sick nursing home patients to hospital for treatment, but Dr Henry said that although there were circumstances in which this would still happen, “in the context of a pandemic and to break the chain of transmission our clear preference is to provide as much care as possible in that setting”.

Equipment upgrades

Under the new policy, staff training and the provision of oxygen and personal protective equipment is to be upgraded to enable as much care as possible to be provided to residents in their care homes.

One Dublin nursing home has told families residents with the virus will not be transferred to hospitals as research showed outcomes for their cohort are not improved by hospitalisation or being placed on a ventilator for several weeks.

It has also emerged that private patients with illnesses other than Covid-19 will continue to be treated in public hospitals during the pandemic.

The Government this week effectively took over the facilities of 19 private hospitals around the country as part of its plan for dealing with the crisis.

However, sources said the Department of Health signalled to health insurers at a meeting on Wednesday that private fee-paying patients would still be accommodated in public hospitals for treatment for non-Covid 19 illnesses.

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan is expected back at work today after being admitted to St James’s Hospital for tests having complained about feeling unwell on Tuesday night. It is understood the health complaint is unrelated to the Covid-19.

Separately, all 16,000 special-needs assistants employed by schools are to be placed on standby to fill vacancies created by moving nurses and medical staff out of community healthcare setting and into frontline jobs. All schools are currently closed under public health restrictions.

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