Covid-19: Laois nursing home emerges from outbreak that led to 17 deaths

Challenge of supporting facilities experiencing outbreaks ‘very significant’, HSE says

A Co Laois nursing home hit by a “horrendous” Covid-19 outbreak that led to the deaths of 17 residents in just 20 days was “through it now”, the healthcare manager behind the home has said.

The surviving 48 residents at Droimnín Nursing Home in Stradbally, all of whom caught the virus during the post-Christmas outbreak, have emerged from post-Covid 14-day isolation.

The first Covid-related death occurred on January 4th and the last on Sunday after the first Covid-19 case was detected on December 29th in a resident discharged from hospital.

Hospital Report

"It was horrendous. We are through it now and we are picking up the pieces and rehabilitating the residents, trying to get back to normal," said Gearóid Brennan, chief executive of Brookhaven, the private healthcare group behind the Co Laois nursing home.


“We have a lot of work to do. Whenever there is an outbreak, residents are confined to rooms. That is not good for mental health, never mind their physical health. We have to rebuild their strength and return to having a normal existence. We are doing an awful lot of work right now.”

Mr Brennan said he was “incredibly surprised” at how quickly the virus spread through the nursing home, despite stringent infection prevention and control measures being in place.

“It just got through it so fast. We don’t know what variant it was. That is one of the things that we are trying to find out,” he said.

The other four nursing homes in the Brookhaven group were remaining “extremely vigilant” with just a week away for some until the second dose of the Covid-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed that everything will hold steady until the second. We are implementing arrangements that assumes no immunity after the first one,” Mr Brennan said.

The second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, administered 28 days after the first, protects 95 per cent of people who receive it but it takes seven days for full immunity to take effect.

‘Hyper vigilant’

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, which represents private nursing homes that make up most of the sector, said that anything to speed up the rollout of second doses would help protect nursing homes when transmission levels in the community are still very high.

“The nursing home sector is stretched. Everybody is hyper vigilant and anything that would improve the situation would be welcome,” he said.

Consent forms signed after the dose interval was extended to 28 days from 21 on vaccinations after January 18th complicates bringing forward the second dose for some nursing homes.

Some 71,600 first dose vaccinations have been administered in nursing homes and other long-term residential care facilities. About 46,000 second doses will be administered to long-term residential care facilities and healthcare workers in the first week of February.

The HSE said at its weekly briefing that 282 people linked to Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes have died this month to date out of 830 total deaths from the disease in January.

Some 181 nursing homes, or almost a third of all homes up, have an open outbreak and 54 are in the “red” category of intensive support from the HSE.

There are 1,500 staff unavailable to work across nursing homes due to illness or isolation.

“The challenge of continuing to support that number of facilities experiencing outbreaks is very significant,” said HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor.

Across all long-term residential care facilities, there are 398 open outbreaks of Covid-19. An outbreak is defined as two or more cases of the disease.

Fourteen new outbreaks were declared in residential care facilities on both January 20th and January 25th. There are 91 outbreaks in facilities in Dublin, 52 in Cork and 21 in Louth.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent