Ireland has one of the highest proportion of care home deaths among all fatalities from Covid-19, a new report indicates.
Some 62 per cent of Covid-19 deaths in Ireland are associated with care homes, a figure surpassed only by Canada, where 82 per cent of deaths occurred in these settings.
This is according to the latest update report from the International Long Term Care Policy Network, which does however caution that comparisons between the 16 countries are difficult to make due to differing approaches to recording deaths.
Canada, Ireland and France (where care home deaths make up 51 per cent of the total) record both confirmed and probable Covid-19 deaths, whereas the figures for Sweden (49 per cent), Austria and the US (41 per cent) and Germany (37 per cent) relate only to confirmed cases.
In Hong Kong, where there have been just four deaths overall, no cases or deaths have been recorded in care homes.
The report notes that Ireland has a centralised system to collection information about Covid-19 infections, and that all deaths in all care settings and dwellings are notified to public health officials. In addition to known, laboratory-confirmed deaths, a census of mortality in long-term residential facilities uncovered a further 221 probable Covid-19 deaths, the report also notes.
In Sweden, the government has apologised for the high number of deaths among older people in care homes and an investigation has been ordered. In the UK, a government minister has said policy was to protect the national health service ahead of care homes due to a lack of testing capacity.
In Ireland, public health officials have vigorously defended performance, pointing out that blanket visitor restrictions for care homes were introduced more quickly here than in any other country following the arrival of the virus.
The share of care home residents whose deaths are linked to the virus tends to be lower in countries with fewer total deaths, according to the report, though as the number of deaths grows this share seems to reach a plateau “for now”.
The authors say that despite the limitations of the data, it is important to share it as if infections and deaths are not measured in a timely manner, there is a danger opportunities to alert policymakers to the scale of the epidemic in care homes will be missed.
“This may result in allocations of scarce resources (including testing, personal protection equipment, medical personnel and medicines) that leave out the settings that are experiencing some of the biggest challenges in relation to Covid-19.”