Four in five nursing homes reported at least one Covid case in 2020 – regulator
Hiqa says number of unexpected deaths more than doubled to 1,833 during 2020
Hiqa’s annual report does not cover the third wave, the most severe of the 15-month pandemic, when nursing homes suffered devastating outbreaks of the disease. Photograph: iStock
Four out of every five nursing homes in the State reported at least one confirmed Covid-19 case among residents or staff last year, the State’s health service regulator has said.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said in its 2020 annual report that 82 per cent of nursing homes had at least one case of the coronavirus disease and there were 702 outbreaks reported across nursing homes during the year.
A third of nursing homes reported at least one outbreak, while almost another third reported two outbreaks during the year; 1 per cent of nursing homes reported five outbreaks.
Notifications of unexpected deaths received by Hiqa jumped to 1,833 during 2020 compared with 706 the previous year, an increase of 259 per cent as a result of the pandemic.
The highest monthly number was 672 in April 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic, followed by 303 in May and 138 in June.
The annual report does not cover the third wave, the most severe of the 15-month pandemic, when nursing homes suffered devastating outbreaks of the disease.
‘Gaps and shortcomings’
Mary Dunnion, Hiqa’s chief inspector, said in the report that the Covid-19 pandemic exposed “gaps and shortcomings” in the watchdog’s regulatory framework.
She said regulations covering clinical governance, staffing levels and effective governance and management required improvement.
Ms Dunnion said Hiqa had “consistently drawn attention” to the use of “outdated premises, many of which have multi-occupancy rooms and shared facilities that are not appropriate to provide the quality of care our citizens should be able to enjoy”.
She said the regulations currently did not permit her, as chief inspector, “to take appropriate action where the safety and privacy of residents is compromised”.
Phelim Quinn, chief executive of Hiqa, repeated the health watchdog’s call for regulatory reform, saying it would “remain a focus for us over the coming years as health and social care services work to meet the long-term consequences of the pandemic”.
Regulating during the pandemic has highlighted the need to reform “the way in which services are delivered to our older citizens in particular, but also to better safeguard those who live in unregulated services”, he said.
Hiqa carried out 1,242 inspections of health and social services, including nursing homes, residential centres for people with disabilities and public hospitals, last year.
The regulator produced 49 evidence reports on Covid-19 for the Minister for Health, the Department of Health and the National Public Health Emergency Team.