Coronavirus: New measures for nursing homes amid concern over 17 clusters

Concern expressed as 17 clusters of Covid-19 infection are identified in nursing homes

March 30th, 2020: 17 coronavirus clusters have been confirmed in Irish nursing homes, a Government spokesperson has said. Video: RTÉ

 

The Government will introduce specific measures to stem the outbreak of coronavirus in nursing homes, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

The increased number of Covid-19 infections in nursing and care homes has become a source of concern, putting pressure on health officials to set out plans to stop the spread of the virus in the homes for the elderly.

Mr Harris said he would meet representatives of Nursing Home Ireland on Monday to hear suggestions about how the Government can support the nursing homes, their residents and their staff.

The State’s National Public Health Emergency Team is due to consider measures for nursing homes when it meets on Tuesday, he said.

“I would expect that this week we will have a specific set of measures and supports for nursing homes,” Mr Harris said on Sunday evening.

There are clusters or outbreaks of Covid-19 cases in 16 nursing homes in the east of the country and one in the north-east, according to statistics released by the State’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre on Saturday relating to cases recorded as of midnight last Thursday, March 26th.

There are a further three outbreaks in residential-based institutions - two in the east and one in the west. There are about 460 private nursing homes and 100 public nursing homes in the country.

HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said at a briefing on Sunday morning that health officials were “aware of issues in private nursing homes” and the HSE was “working closely” to support them through specialised geriatrician and technical clinical support.

Asked about residents self-isolating in nursing homes, she said that it was “very important” for the HSE to keep people who test positive for Covid-19 in their nursing home.

She acknowledged that the nursing homes sector had also experienced concern about staffing shortages where nursing home employees had tested positive. Nursing homes have had “a very significant challenge” relying on new and additional staff, she said.

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, the group representing the sector, said nursing homes wanted certainty from the Government on the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and oxygen to maintain the safety of their residents and staff.

“We have experienced significant challenges over the last week with PPE,” he said.

“There should be at least a three-day provision of PPE for every nursing home in the country. If a nursing home has an outbreak, then they need to be prepared to be able to address that.”

Mr Daly said that nursing homes were finding it difficult to hire staff because of the HSE’s heavy recruitment drive.

Staff and residents of nursing homes also needed a guarantee from State health officials of “quick turnaround” on Covid-19 testing to prevent the disease spreading in homes, he said.

Nursing homes also needed additional funding to support them in the outbreak, he said.