Covid-19: 13 die at Lusk nursing home as State deals with 160 outbreaks

Visa delays for nurses from outside Europe hamper management of staff shortages

 Eleven deaths recorded at the HSE-run Lusk Community Nursing Unit, Co Dublin,  were among residents with confirmed Covid-19.  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Eleven deaths recorded at the HSE-run Lusk Community Nursing Unit, Co Dublin, were among residents with confirmed Covid-19. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

There have been 13 deaths recorded during a Covid-19 outbreak at a north Co Dublin nursing home with a “significant number” of residents and staff infected, the HSE has said.

Eleven of the deaths at the HSE-run Lusk Community Nursing Unit were among residents with confirmed Covid-19.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for residents, their families and everyone working in Lusk Community Nursing Unit,” said a spokeswoman for the local HSE community healthcare organisation.

The HSE would not say how many people were infected.

The outbreak hit the nursing home before the first round of Covid-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were administered there.

The HSE said that almost half of the residents at the 50-bed facility were vaccinated.

“The remainder of the residents did not receive their vaccinations for a variety of reasons, including having a Covid-19 positive result, awaiting Covid-19 test results, being medically unfit or unsuitable to receive a vaccine or not consenting to receive the vaccine,” said the spokeswoman.

Covid-infected residents and staff at nursing homes are not permitted to receive the vaccine and must wait four weeks from their positive test result or the onset of symptoms to pass.

The number of open outbreaks in nursing homes increased to more than 160 – almost one-third of all nursing homes in the country – this week as infection rates remain high in the community.

Cobh Community Hospital, a voluntary nursing home in Co Cork, said it has been affected by an outbreak but would not disclose the number of cases or deaths, if any, at the care facility.

Dr Peter Morehan, a local GP and a member of the nursing home’s board of management, said that residents and staff were vaccinated as planned on January 11th.

“All hospital staff have been heroic in ensuring safe care provision for the residents and facilitating communication with their families,” he said.

He said the hospital was in regular contact with the HSE and local public health “Covid advisers” whom, he said, had been “very supportive.”

The HSE said this week there were 1,800 nursing home staff out of work with some facilities requiring support from the health service and, in a small number of cases, from the Army.

Nursing homes have complained that delays in approving visas for nurses from India, the Philippines and other countries outside Europe is hampering their ability to manage outbreaks.

The care home sector for older people that relies heavily on foreign workers said the time taken to process applications for so-called atypical visas at the Department of Justice has roughly trebled from between three and four weeks last summer to between eight and 12 weeks now.

“At a time when we are crying out for staff and there are so many staff are out because of Covid, every effort should be made to expedite these visas,” said Tadhg Daly, the chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, the group representing the owners of private nursing homes.

The NHI was engaging with the department to reduce waiting times, he said.

The department said that there were about 350 applications on hand and that the bulk of these will be processed within 10 working days. Staff numbers in the unit responsible for processing the visas had been increased by 50 per cent to address the “temporary increase in processing times”.

“It’s expected that the increased resources will enable processing times to revert by the end of the month to five working days for in-order frontline medical staff applications,” it said.

The validity period for the immigration approval letter – to allow applicants to get their paperwork in order to exit their country, quarantine on arrival and pass a relevant exam – has also been extended from 90 to 120 days “to take account of travel difficulties during the pandemic”.

News Digests

Stay on top of the latest newsSIGN UP HERE