Coronavirus: Nursing homes say they are not getting staff support from HSE

Nursing Home Ireland says ‘heralded redeployment’ not happening amid ‘huge crisis’

Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly has asked if consideration has  been given to using private hospitals to assist the nursing home sector when the “taxpayer is on the hook for a minimum of €345 million”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly has asked if consideration has been given to using private hospitals to assist the nursing home sector when the “taxpayer is on the hook for a minimum of €345 million”. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The vast bulk of private nursing homes have not received any staffing support from the Health Service Executive in dealing with the impact of Covid-19 following on from agreement reached last week, their representative body has maintained.

Nursing Homes Ireland said urgent staff redeployment was needed from the public health service to deal with an emerging “huge crisis”.

Nursing Homes Ireland said 96 per cent of nursing homes (227 of the 236 who responded to a survey) said they had not received staffing support from the HSE.

Last week, the HSE and trade unions announced an agreement which would allow existing health service personnel to volunteer to work in private nursing homes which had been affected by Covid-19.

“The heralded redeployment of staff is not manifesting on the ground,” Nursing Home Ireland said.

It said “a huge crisis is now emerging and is likely to exacerbate, arising from mass testing for Covid-19 being undertaken in nursing homes”.

Unavailable staff

“A snapshot survey of private and voluntary nursing homes across the country, undertaken Wednesday, April 22nd, informed there are large numbers of nursing, care and other staff now unavailable due to Covid-19.”

It said 60 nursing homes said that overall 107 senior nurses were absent due to Covid-19, and 102 nursing homes said of 223 nurses were absent due to Covid-19. Four nursing homes said more than 10 of their nursing staff were absent, and 158 nursing homes said 427 healthcare assistants were absent due to Covid-19.

Responding to the survey at Thursday’s National Public Health Emergency Team briefing, Dr Colm Henry, the HSE’s chief clinical officer, said staff from acute hospitals may be redeployed to nursing homes.

Dr Henry said: “If the screening that is taking place now identifies additional staff having to go off as asymptomatic cases or contacts, we will have to look at redeploying more staff from acute hospitals.

‘Screening exercise’

“We were building up the acute sector for a surge that thankfully didn’t happen and we may have to tap into resources.” He pointed to examples of staff from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, the Central Remedial Clinic and the University of Limerick Hospital Group being deployed already. “That, I’m afraid, will have to increase because of the likelihood we’ll identify more positive cases in nursing homes during the screening exercise we began last Friday.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said the decision to prioritise testing in nursing homes would result in large numbers of staff being able to go back to work quickly.

Mr Harris was responding to concerns about the survey raised by Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly . She said there was an urgent need to address this issue and asked if consideration had been given to utilising private hospitals to assist the nursing home sector when the “taxpayer is on the hook for a minimum of €345 million”. She said some of their staff could be redeployed when the hospitals have 80 per cent of vacancies.

Mr Harris said one of the best ways to address the issue of staffing in nursing homes was to quickly turn around the test results for such staff.

He said there would be a broadening of the criteria for testing and they had the capacity for 10,000 tests a day. He was confident they were moving to this rate of testing.