Hiqa report reveals trauma of nursing home residents and staff

Watchdog finds widespread breaches of Covid-19 rules with some workers ‘unlikely to ever return’

Hiqa’s 45-page report details management failings, staff shortages and lack of infection control measures found during dozens of inspections at homes with Covid-19 cases since May.

Hiqa’s 45-page report details management failings, staff shortages and lack of infection control measures found during dozens of inspections at homes with Covid-19 cases since May.

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A nursing home resident has vowed not to leave their bedroom until a Covid-19 vaccine is discovered, the State’s health watchdog disclosed in a stark report on how the pandemic left those in care living in fear.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) also says it was warned that hardest-hit staff overwhelmed by the coronavirus crisis had taken leave and were unlikely to ever return to work.

In a 45-page report, Hiqa details widespread breaches of regulations – mainly management failings, staff shortages and lack of infection control measures – uncovered during dozens of inspections at homes with confirmed cases since May.

The watchdog was so concerned about the residents of one home – the Donore nursing home in Bray, Co Wicklow – that it got an emergency closure order from the courts to shut it down and transfer 16 residents into Health Service Executive homes.

‘Frustrated and lonely’

Residents reported being “fearful, confused, angry, frustrated and lonely” during the lockdown, with the isolation and constant fear of an outbreak only serving to “amplify these emotions”.

“One resident remarked that they were ‘not going to leave [their] room again until a vaccine was found’,” the watchdog said.

But there was anger and frustration among others at being “largely confined to their own bedrooms” which created “a sense of abandonment and isolation that many found difficult to cope with”.

One relative of a resident told Hiqa: “My dad is a broken man, he misses his family more than anything.”

‘Window visits’

The watchdog found “inconsistencies” across nursing homes over visits, with some being innovative and arranging outdoor or “window visits” while others were “completely closed to the surrounding community”.

Many staff too have been left struggling with “feelings of guilt” at being too stretched to better comfort and reassure residents.

Most inspectors reported management and staff becoming “overwhelmed with emotion when speaking about how they managed during the pandemic”.

“Some exhibited signs of extreme stress, fatigue, exhaustion and anxiety in trying to come to terms with what was happening around them,” said Hiqa.

One inspector was told: “We have some staff that are still out and it is likely they will never return, such is their upset.”