The CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, Tadhg Daly, has said that "everything should be on the table" to ensure the safety and welfare of residents and staff in nursing homes, including mandatory vaccination.
Mr Daly was responding to a ruling by the Data Protection Commissioner ås reported in The Irish Times that vaccination may be considered as a "necessary safety measure" in certain situations, including frontline health services.
On foot of the ruling the HSE plans to write to staff indicating that it may seek information about their vaccination status as part of assessing risk to patients and other staff during the pandemic.
Speaking on RTÉ radio's Today with Claire Byrne show, Mr Daly said his instinct was that the ruling was "a very positive development." It was important to note that the vast majority of staff in care settings had taken the vaccine, and he welcomed the ruling that all health and social care staff would have to confirm their vaccination status.
“Given that we’re up on 90 per cent plus, in the vast majority of health and social care settings, it may not be required — what we’ve seen throughout the pandemic is that guidance has changed in relation to infection control, mask wearing, visitation to nursing homes, what we’ve got to do is continue to evolve the guidance to meet the virus and to deal with the pandemic.”
Mr Daly said he thought the ruling was a prudent measure.
If there was a situation in a care setting that a significant number of people had not taken the vaccine then a risk assessment would have to be carried out and whatever steps were necessary were taken to ensure safety of patients in hospital or residents in nursing homes, he said.
Mr Daly pointed out that in the coming weeks if people were going out for a meal in a restaurant or for a drink in a pub then they would have to show their vaccination status.
“When you put it in that light I think it is right and appropriate, particularly if you’re working in a health and care social setting that you would be required to make your vaccination status known.
“I think it’s appropriate in all healthcare settings.”
Mr Daly said that “the vast majority” of staff had really confirmed their vaccination status voluntarily. “It hasn’t presented a huge issue at this point in time, but I think in our ongoing fight to deal with Covid we need to use every measure to ensure the safety and welfare of people in nursing homes and in our hospitals.
“In some cases I’m aware of (vaccination levels) up to 100 per cent and the average I’ve heard across the country is upwards of 90 per cent. Maybe the ones that have some challenges are not making themselves known to ourselves or the HSE and are trying to work through those.
“We still need to be vigilant.”
Personal responsibility needed to be emphasised, he added.
“If you’re working in a healthcare setting you have a responsibility to those you care for. All of these measures are important, broadly speaking we would welcome the data protection commissioner’s ruling on this.”