Nursing homes dispute accuracy of HSE data on Covid-19 deaths

Homes say virus deaths were wrongly assigned to them or dispute number of deaths

A number of nursing homes have questioned the accuracy of internal Health Service Executive data quantifying the number of deaths associated with Covid-19 in their facilities.

The list of 167 facilities contains figures on Covid-19 deaths produced by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), the division of the HSE which provides official figures on deaths linked to the virus. The data was presented to the board of the HSE. The list was published last week by The Irish Times.

A total of 25 nursing homes have contacted The Irish Times to query their inclusion on the list compiled for the HSE board. Twelve homes say they have no deaths associated with the virus, despite having a single death ascribed to them in the HPSC data.

(June 18th, 2020: Two more nursing homes query their inclusion on HSE list of Covid-19 deaths)


Those homes are St Joseph's Centre, Shankill; St Louise's, Chapelizod; St Vincent's Centre, Navan Road; and Sally Park nursing home in Dublin; St Mary's in Shantalla, Ballinderry nursing home and Castleturvin House in Galway; Ballinamore House in Co Mayo; Oakfield nursing home, in Gorey, Co Wexford; Lough Erril nursing home in Leitrim; the Brothers of Charity Ireland South East Region service in Belmont, Waterford; St Francis Nursing Home, Ballinasloe, Co Galway; and St Ursula's nursing home, Bettystown, Co Meath.

Millrace nursing home in Galway says it has had no Covid deaths in the home, and three were ascribed to it in the data.

A spokesman for St Joseph’s in Shankill said it had been “misrepresented in this report. There have been no Covid-related deaths or any suspected deaths due to Covid at this facility”. St Mary’s in Shantalla said there had been no deaths of residents, actual or probable, from the disease, and it had not had a positive case. It said the care of its residents was its first priority and it adhered to all legislation, regulations and guidelines. The Brothers of Charity Services Ireland South East Region stated it has had no Covid related deaths in its locations.

The Daughters of Charity disability support services said it has had no Covid-19 deaths across St Vincent’s and St Louise’s, or any of its residential facilities. “The inaccurate figures reported have been extremely upsetting to family members and staff,” a spokeswoman said.

Castleturvin House said it “has not had a probable or confirmed Covid-19 death”. Ballinamore nursing home said: “There has been no death from Covid-19 . . . our centre, thankfully, is free from Covid-19.”

A spokeswoman for Oakfield nursing home said the report was “factually inaccurate as we have had no cases of Covid-19 and no deaths related to Covid-19”.

‘Great distress’

A spokeswoman for Lough Erril said no Covid-19-related death had occurred there and that had been confirmed by the director of public health in the local HSE division. She said the publication had caused “great distress and anguish” to those involved in the nursing home.

Sally Park said in a statement that it has “had no Covid-19 deaths in the centre and its focus is on the care and welfare of its residents and staff”. It said publication of the data “caused great distress, fear and anxiety” to its community. In a statement, St Ursula’s nursing home said it had no Covid infections, and criticised the reporting of The Irish Times.

A further 11 do not dispute having had outbreaks and associated Covid-19 deaths in their facilities but say their internal figure is lower than the number of deaths from the disease listed in the HSE data.

Those homes include Tara Winthrop private clinic; Kiltipper Woods nursing home; Loughshinny nursing home; Clonskeagh community unit, and CareChoice facilities in Malahide and Finglas, all in Dublin; another CareChoice facility in Macroom, Cork; Larchfield Park in Kildare; Drumbear Lodge in Monaghan; and Beechwood Nursing Home in Carlow.

A spokesman for Tara Winthrop said it had 23 confirmed or suspected Covid-19 deaths, rather than the 29 attributed to it.

“The team at Tara Winthrop private clinic are deeply saddened by the loss of these lovely residents and we extend our condolences to their families,” he said.

A spokesman for Kiltipper said the figures were inaccurate and its “focus remains and will continue to remain on providing the highest standards of person-centred care for all our residents and in supporting staff at this time”.

Loughshinny said last week the figure of 18 deaths was “factually inaccurate” and that its figure was nine deaths. Beechwood said it had suffered 10 Covid-19 related deaths, not 16 as the HSE figures reported.

“The other six residents had been receiving end-of-life care and death certification made no reference to Covid -19 being a contributory factor to their deaths,” the home said.

CareChoice did not dispute that some Covid deaths had occurred in the facilities named, but that the figure was lower than suggested by the data.

A spokesman for Drumbear Lodge disputed the 20 deaths in the HPSC data, saying the majority of those who had contracted the virus had survived, but a “number in the low teens” had not. He said families had been “extremely supportive” of the home and its staff during a difficult time.


In response to a series of queries from The Irish Times about why more than 20 care homes were contesting the accuracy of its internal figures, the HSE said that the data “simply represents a snapshot in time and is constantly being superseded as newer and more accurate data becomes available”.

The HSE said it was “continually gathering data on Covid-19 outbreaks, cases and deaths, including in nursing homes and other residential care settings” through the computerised infectious disease reporting system, which the HPSC uses to manage the surveillance and control of infectious diseases in the State.

“This confidential, preliminary data is used, on an ongoing basis, to help co-ordinate the HSE response to outbreaks and to develop management strategies in conjunction with the residential settings involved,” it said.

The HSE pointed out that residential care families “differ greatly, meeting a wide variety of care needs. Some settings provide care to those with very complex needs, while others may have few residents requiring such medical care.

“Therefore, we would again strongly caution against the use of such data to compare the impact of Covid-19 within residential settings,” the HSE said in a statement.

* This article was amended on June 9th, 2020

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

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

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times