Patient transfers into nursing homes may have been as high as 2,300

HSE fails to tell Covid-19 committee if tests conducted as route of infection sought

Almost 1,000 of the Republic’s Covid-19 deaths have been linked to outbreaks in nursing homes. Photograph:  John Stillwell/PA

Almost 1,000 of the Republic’s Covid-19 deaths have been linked to outbreaks in nursing homes. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

 

Up to 2,300 patients were approved for transfer from acute hospitals to nursing homes in the run-up to the Covid-19 pandemic in February and March, new figures indicate.

Some nursing home owners have said they believe the virus was brought into their facilities through patients being transferred out of hospitals in advance of the expected surge of coronavirus cases in March. Public health officials have said there is no evidence this was the case but the issue is likely to be examined by an expert panel currently reviewing the official response to the pandemic in nursing homes.

The Dáil special committee on Covid-19 asked the Health Service Executive to provide information on the number of patients transferred from hospitals to private nursing homes between January 1st and March 31st, and the number who were tested for the virus prior to transfer.

Officials responded by providing information on patients in hospitals who were approved for discharge to nursing homes or convalescent care using transitional care funding. They cautioned that some patients may not take up the offer and an audit is under way to determine the number who took up a placement.

The HSE’s answer did not address the question of whether patients being transferred had been tested.

Outbreaks among residents

The data shows 1,118 patients were offered funding in January and 980 in February; the Republic’s first case of the virus was on February 29th. The figure peaked at 1,363 in March, before falling to 324 funding approvals in April and 288 in May.

Almost 1,000 of the Republic’s Covid-19 deaths have been linked to outbreaks in nursing homes.

Separately, Dealgan House, a privately run nursing home in Dundalk where 23 residents died in April and May, admitted four residents under Fair Deal or transitional care funding, the committee has been told.

Two of the admissions were made from Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, one from Louth Hospital and one directly from the community, according to information provided by the HSE to the committee.

A total of three new deaths of patients with Covid-19 were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Tuesday. This brings to 1,709 the total number of deaths linked to the disease in the Republic.

Underlying conditions

The team also reported another 14 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 25,334.

Meanwhile, almost 52 per cent of Covid-19 cases had an underlying condition, according to the latest analysis from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Of this group, 21 per cent had one underlying condition, 7.9 per cent had two and 3.9 per cent had three or more.

The most commonly reported conditions were chronic heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, chronic neurological disease and cancer.

Some 13.9 per cent of cases had chronic respiratory disease and 10.6 per cent had chronic heart disease.

In relation to Covid-19 deaths, 41.8 per cent had chronic neurological disease, 30.6 per cent had chronic heart disease, 17 per cent had chronic respiratory disease, 14.6 per cent had cancer or a malignancy, and 14.3 per cent had diabetes.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in hospital intensive care units has fallen to24, with six more suspected cases.

In Northern Ireland, one more person died on Tuesday, taking the total to 542. The North’s Department of Health also reported that just two more people have tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 4,854.