One in five nursing home residents still in multi-occupancy rooms

Despite Covid infection risks, about 22% of residents live in rooms of up to four

The prevalence of the more transmissible Delta variant continues to pose risk. Photograph: iStock

One in five residents of nursing homes continue to be accommodated in multi-occupancy rooms, despite the increased infection risk involved.

About 22 per cent of residents live in rooms for up to four people, according to survey data collected for the latest update on the implementation of reforms in the sector.

In HSE homes, 35 per cent of residents are in multi-occupancy rooms; in the private sector, the figure is 18 per cent, data gathered from survey respondents indicates.

About 500 Covid-19 cases have been linked to 42 nursing home outbreaks in the current wave of the pandemic since May, according to the third update on implementation of the recommendations of the Covid-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel.


However, the impact in terms of disease and death appears to be significantly reduced compared with previous waves, due to widespread vaccination, it says.

The overwhelming majority of nursing homes reported having a Covid lead worker on the staff, adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, and specific training and infection control plans.

However, only 29 per cent reported having a specific arrangement with a GP for oversight and governance. Some 89 per cent said they complied with a recommendation that staff do not work across multiple sites.

According to the report, many of the short and medium term recommendations aimed at safeguarding people in nursing homes against Covid have already been implemented, including the provision of free personal protective equipment, serial testing, HSE Covid-19 response teams, training and temporary accommodation for staff.

Remaining risk

Notwithstanding the broadly stable situation at the moment, the prevalence of the more transmissible Delta variant continues to pose risk, in particular to those who are not yet fully protected though vaccination, the report warns. “While the severity of the illness experienced is greatly reduced compared to the previous waves, the recent increase in case numbers and outbreaks continues to demonstrate that in times of high community transmission, challenges present in terms of keeping the virus out of settings like nursing homes.

“There is a need for all service providers to apply and adhere to the necessary infection control measures, while there is a need for everyone to take personal responsibility to reduce the risk of transmission by observing good respiratory and hand hygiene and following relevant public health advice and guidance.”

Only 45 per cent of nursing home operators answered the survey, a response rate described as “fair”. The response rate among private operators was 36 per cent, while 81 per cent of HSE homes responded.

Welcoming the report, Minister of State for older people Mary Butler said the recommendations would require analysis and integration with wider reforms over the coming years.

“This report captures significant progress on actions taken to support that longer-term reform, including on the statutory scheme on the regulation and financing of home care, and the substantial investment in these services.”

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.