Covid-19 clusters now in 100 nursing homes

Over half of clusters in the east, Health Protection Surveillance Centre figures show

Nursing homes now account for a third of the clusters of infection across the country. File photograph: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Nursing homes now account for a third of the clusters of infection across the country. File photograph: John Stillwell/PA Wire

 

The number of coronavirus infection clusters in nursing homes around the country has reached 100, according to the latest detailed figures on coronavirus cases released by State officials.

The State’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre disclosed more detailed information showing that as of Monday, April 6th, there were outbreaks – defined as two or more cases – in 100 nursing homes, including 52 in the east of the country, 20 in the northeast and 13 in the west.

There were four clusters in nursing homes in the midlands, another four in the midwest, three in the northwest, three in the south and one in the southeast.

There were a further 37 clusters in residential facilities, of which 22 were in Dublin.

Infection

Nursing homes now account for a third of the clusters of infection across the country, followed by hospitals on 16 per cent with 48 clusters.

“I would still be confident of the ability of the sector to be able to deal with these clusters with the right support from Government,” said Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, the representative body for the sector.

Reaching the 100-mark in a sector with 440 private nursing homes and 120 HSE-run public homes “reinforces the requirement for the Government to fulfil the commitments on a consistent basis across the country” when it comes to provide support and protection equipment, he said.

Mr Daly said that the HSE had provided support to individual nursing homes struggling to manage outbreaks where staff levels have fallen due to employees having to stay at home to self-isolate due to exposure to the illness.

“This should be replicated for other nursing homes that have been particularly badly hit,” he said.

The HSE said it would continue to work with homes to support them in caring for residents and “work with them through the critical stage of outbreaks in their centres as is required”.

In updated guidance published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, the HSE has told residential care facilities that the transfer of Covid-19 patients to acute hospitals “should be limited to situations in which it is necessary to provide essential care to residents”.

A survey by NHI of nursing homes found that 178 nursing homes had lost more than 700 healthcare assistants, while more than 110 had lost close to 300 nurses.

Consideration

Northern Ireland public health specialist Dr Gabriel Scally said that consideration must be made for nursing home staff who are largely foreign nationals and work in a variety of places, not just one home; have two or three jobs, or are providing care in the community through an agency.

“Sometimes significant numbers of them live together, in not very large places, and all of those kind of special opportunities for the virus to spread need to be built into the community programme [for managing the outbreak],” he said.

The Government had to ensure that “if someone doesn’t have good living conditions they can be put into isolation in a hotel to make it easy for people to try and avoid the virus as much as possible,” said Dr Scally.

Health officials have established a special facility at Citywest hotel in west Dublin for Covid-19-positive people or those suspected of having the disease who were not able to self-isolate at home.