Coronavirus kills 11 residents over two weeks in Dublin care home for the elderly

Hospital in Dublin’s Phoenix Park said deaths had been recorded since April 2nd

The HSE has outlined its plans for nursing homes worst hit by COVID-19 at its latest media briefing. Video: RTE News Now

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St Mary’s Hospital in Dublin’s Phoenix Park has had 11 Covid-19 related deaths within a two week period, the HSE has confirmed.

The HSE-run facility, which cares for older people, said on Thursday night that 10 of those who died had tested positive for coronavirus and another resident was suspected to have had it, but test results were awaited.

“We can sadly confirm that since 2nd April 2020 there have been 11 Covid-19 related deaths of residents in St Mary’s Hospital, 10 of which are confirmed Covid-19 positive and one which is a suspected case, awaiting result. We offer our deepest sympathies to their family and friends and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time,” the HSE said in response to queries from The Irish Times.

“Every effort continues to be implemented to maintain the professional standard of nursing and health care assistant staffing in St Mary’s Hospital during this time,” it added.

It said there is an enhanced focus on infection control procedures at the home and that additional measures have been put in place.

The hospital has 198 residential places in total.

“We remain in contact with relatives and next-of-kin of all residents within St Mary’s Hospital in relation to any suspect or confirmed cases of Covid-19,” the HSE said.

Earlier on Thursday the chief executive of Age Action Ireland said there is a “tragedy unfolding” as a result of coronavirus in large disability care institutions, where up to 2,900 people are living, many of them elderly.

Paddy Connolly, a former head of Inclusion Ireland, which advocates for the rights of disabled people, said it was “absolutely happening” that the virus was impacting on these institutions, which should have been closed down years ago.

A senior political source said these institutions were going to create a huge challenge for the Health Service Executive (HSE), because of the difficulties of saving from infection people who are often not in a position to understand or comply with advice on social distancing and avoiding physical contact with others.

His comments came a day after confirmation by the HSE of the deaths of nine residents at the Maryborough Centre for Psychiatry of Old Age in Portlaoise, Co Laois, from Covid-19 last weekend. The residents were aged between 66 and 84.

The 17 residents who remain living at the facility are being managed “as if Covid-19 positive regardless of test results or the presence of symptoms”, the HSE has said.

Latest figures show the number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in residential care settings stands at 254, with the number of clusters in nursing homes now 163, up from 155 in a 24-hour period.

To date, there have been 253 deaths in nursing homes.

Promised support

The possible “surge” in Covid-19 cases that was being talked about two weeks ago, is happening now in the State’s nursing homes, the head of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) has said.

Tadhg Daly said the support the sector is receiving from the State is “patchy” and he wants to see the level of support promised actually being delivered.

“The support, to be fair, it is happening. But it is not consistent across the country. Our frustration is that where it is happening, it is happening very well, but equally, there are other parts of the country where it is not happening at all.”

Mr Daly said he met Minister for Health Simon Harris on Wednesday to discuss the issue of uneven support across the State and was to get an update from him on Friday. “In fairness, that’s a good response.”

He said that the feared surge, or wave, that was being discussed two weeks ago, had not hit the hospital system, where there are approximately 2,400 empty acute beds.

“The surge is actually in the nursing homes. We are the front line now at the moment.”

NHI represents the private and voluntary nursing home sector. There are approximately 30,000 people living in NHI- and HSE-run nursing homes, with Covid-19 cases in at least one-third of the facilities.

No ‘blanket policy’

Asked about comments made recently by the chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, where he referred to some nursing homes having, in the past, received poor reports from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), Mr Daly said it was not accurate to suggest the crisis was due in part to some nursing homes having low standards.

“If you look at Hiqa reports, in 2019 the compliance assessment for all homes in terms of infection control was 82 per cent.”

He also said it was “unhelpful” that some people were making comments about private sector nursing homes being “bailed out”.

While private and voluntary nursing homes have mostly single room or double bedrooms, the HSE-run facilities had a derogation from this standard that allowed it to run homes with larger number of beds per room.

He said he still thought it was the correct policy to try keep as many infected people as possible in the homes. A “blanket policy” of moving everyone to hospital, or keeping everyone in the homes, would be wrong

“The homes have lots of experience in end of life and palliative care. The notion of transferring someone to another setting when it is not appropriate would make no sense.”

Each infected resident is examined by a doctor and a clinical decision is made as to what is in the person’s best interests.

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