Timeline: How Covid-19 crisis in nursing homes unfolds in correspondence

Hundreds of pages of exchanges between the Department of Health and nursing homes’ bodies released

During a committee held in the Dáil chamber TDs heard of how staff found working in nursing homes 'horific' during the Covid-19 outbreak. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

 

Hundreds of pages of correspondence between the Department of Health and nursing homes’ organisations earlier this year have been released and have highlight how the Covid-19 crisis in elderly care homes unfolded. The following is a timeline :

February 28th

The head of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) writes to senior officials in the Department of Health seeking “urgent” guidance for the sector after the first confirmed case of coronavirus on the island of Ireland. Mr Daly notes a statement from the HSE that there was an adequate stock of personal protective equipment (PPE) but said “this is not the case for our member homes.” Officials respond and say they will follow the queries up.

March 4th

Mr Daly again writes to senior officials in the Department of Health and asks for an “express commitment” that the needs of the private and voluntary nursing home sector are addressed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). The department says the sector will be “encompassed” within the scope of the work of a team assessing the needs of vulnerable people.

March 6th

Mr Daly tells the HSE about “increasing queries from members” about “safe and appropriate discharges from acute hospitals to nursing homes.” He says there is an “immediate requirement on the HSE to outline the procedures for discharge.” He says that communication is important or “this may get out of control.”

March 9th

Mr Daly writes to the secretary general of the Department of Health Jim Breslin and Minister for Health Simon Harris raising concerns that workers from the nursing homes sector are being recruited to tackle Covid-19 elsewhere in the health service. This would be at the “severe detriment” of people in the nursing home sector and would “threaten the capacity” of nursing homes to “meet their care needs during a period of a health emergency and will present as a move that will endanger older people.” On the same day, Mr Daly again asks the department for guidance on admissions from hospitals.

March 10th

Guidance on the transfer of patients between facilities is issued but by March 12th the NHI calls for more stringent measures, clarity around PPE and raise concerns about contingency arrangements should staff become ill. Mr Daly says that there is “no specific practical guidance” for nursing homes on places such as the HSPC website.

March 12th

After an announcement that schools and colleges will close, Mr Daly seeks clarity from the department about how nursing homes will maintain staffing levels.

March 13th

In a letter to Kathleen McLellan, the chair of the vulnerable person’s sub-group on NPHET, Mr Daly says the recently issued HSE guidance contains “no practical guidance to nursing homes on how to reduce the risk of transmission” and says “no information” has been provided in relation to personal protective equipment. “We are receiving constant queries from nursing homes with regard to how they can access such equipment and no assurance is coming from our health services in this regard.” He requests “immediate engagement.” He is told by Ms McLellan that “work is going” on guidance.

March 15th

NHI reports to health officials that its members cannot get access to PPE.

March 17th

Mr Daly writes to Minister Harris with a plea to “desist targeting the recruitment of staff from the private and voluntary nursing home sector.”

March 18th

While Mr Daly praises the “round the clock” engagement, he says there are “pressing issues”. He says there are now confirmed cases of Covid-19 among nursing home residents and yet the provision of PPE is “challenging to say the least.” Delays in testing also have “cataclysmic consequences”. He requests a urgent meeting with the department and the next day also requests an urgent meeting in a email to Minister Harris.

March 24th

The NHI makes a submission on funding needed for the sector and again requests a meeting with Mr Harris. The next day the NHI report that some staff in the sector were withdrawing applications for jobs after the Goverment’s weekly pandemic payment of €350 was announced.

March 30th

A meeting was held with Mr Harris on March 30th and communications continue throughout April and May.

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