Coronavirus: Disability and mental health units at risk

HSE expects many more outbreaks in long-term residential settings

There were 98 people in intensive care units with confirmed coronavirus overnight, Paul Reid, Director General of the Health Service Executive has announced at the weekly HSE operational update on the response to Covid-19. Video: HSE Live


Health officials have warned they expected to see “considerably more’ outbreaks in disability and mental health residential units, as well as another 50 outbreaks in nursing homes.

The number of nursing homes where outbreaks are “of particular concern” has risen from 75 to 90 in a week.

HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said there were now 481 long-term residential settings receiving supports, including 311 public and private older people’s services.

She said there were 100 outbreaks of the disease in disability units and 36 in mental health facilities.

To assist centres where staff are out due to outbreaks, the HSE has redeployed 394 staff to long-term residential facilities, including 74 experience home care workers.

She was speaking at a media briefing on Sunday where HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the rate of testing for Covid-19 had increased to 12,000 a day and the target of 100,000 tests a week would be achieved by mid-May.

By last Friday, 176,000 tests had been completed for the disease, placing Ireland among the top five or six countries in Europe for testing, Mr Reid said.

The 12,000 tests completed last Friday meant the HSE has exceeded its plans for ramping up testing for that date, he added. A total of 60,000 swabs were taken last week and labs processed 57,000 of these.

Testing has now been completed in 80 per cent of the 551 nursing homes, including 84 per cent of those with outbreaks and this sweep will be completed in the coming days, he added. The focus of testing is then expected to move on to mental health and disability settings.

Tests are now being processed in 40 laboratories, including 35 located in hospitals. Last Friday, an agreement was signed with Germany labs which will provided a daily capacity of 5,000 tests, Mr Reid told the briefing.

Mr Reid said by May 18th, the day Ireland will begin re-opening under the Government roadmap, tests would be at the target of 100,000 a week and results would be available within three days of referral and within two days of the swab having been taken.

With the number of patients in ICU falling below 100, Mr Reid said the trend was positive “but it’s far too early to make any judgements”.

People are beginning to return to GPs for general care, having previously expressed a fear of infection, he said.

GP patients who return now to seek treatment will find much has changed, including having to wait in cars for appointment, perspex screens to protect staff and video evaluation before they get to surgery, HSE officials said.

Things will take longer and you will need to be patient, but we do want to see you so please get in touch,” said HSE GP lead, Dr John O’Brien.

According to Mr Reid, 241 private hospital consultant have now signed up to work in the public sector during the crisis. He said the original plan was for private hospitals to be used to accommodate an anticipated surge in cases. Now that this had not materialised private and public hospital capacity would be used to see patients on waiting lists.

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