Cork nursing home keeps Covid-19 at bay through early planning and management
Owner says future will be very different with emphasis on infection control in nursing homes
Diarmuid Ó Dálaigh, proprietor, Oaklodge Nursing Home, Cloyne, Co Cork. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Oaklodge nursing home may have been one of the residential care homes that managed to keep its residents safe from Covid-19 but that was down primarily to early planning and a huge effort by staff and management.
Owner, Diarmuid O’Dálaigh explained that he and his staff at the 65 bed facility located near Cloyne in East Cork began restricting visiting when they learned of the first outbreak Covid-19 in Ireland on March 1st.
“We began restricting admissions and visiting from the start of March when we realised that Covid-19 had struck in Ireland and we began to tighten up introducing infection control measures,” said Mr O’Dalaigh.
Among the measures which Oaklodge introduced were disinfectant mats at entrances and temperature testing a number of times a day for both the 85 staff and residents of the facility, which was established in 2005.
They also introduced a measure after the government announced details of the lockdown on March 12th whereby they got staff to self-certify that they were in compliance with all the government requirements to help curb Covid-19.
To incentivise staff to ensure they was full compliance with the measures, they introduced a €500 bonus voucher scheme while they also introduced their own training to complement HSE training on infection control and the use of PPE.
“Getting PPE was challenging – at one point, I had 100 days’ supply of PPE but the advice from NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team) changed and we went from having 100 days’ supply to just five days supply.
“Essentially, we were using about 20 masks a day but the advice changed and we needed 300 masks a day but we managed to get 70,000 masks from China for staff to use along with gloves and aprons and scrubs when necessary.”
Mr Dalaigh said they didn’t make the wearing of PPE compulsory but many opted to use them while staff were also proactive in making practical suggestions like staggering rosters to avoid congestion in changing rooms.
“We introduced three extra changing rooms and timed changing so when people arrived for work, they had set times for changing so, for example, staff finishing night weren’t clashing with staff coming in on days.”
Staff stayed in their own areas including for meals as they closed the canteen while Oakmount also arranged local accommodation for staff in the event of someone contracting Covid-19 and fearing they might expose their family.
“Ever since we opened Oakmount, the priority for us has always been the residents and we’ve said that time and again to staff but since Covid-19 arrived in Ireland, our focus has shifted to our staff,” he said.
“We did that because we know if we lose staff and they are out sick with the virus, we can’t care for our residents – we realised very quickly that if we were down staff, we were goosed because we could not get them anywhere.”
But while the focus shifted to staff, Mr Dalaigh said that staff did their utmost to ensure that life continued as normally as possible for residents who could no longer have visitors or engage in communal activities like music evenings.
“Social life in the nursing home is gone but we had our staff look at what they can do to try and ensure every resident has some focus socially every morning and afternoon – be it Facetime, a hand massage, reading the paper.
“We began restricting visiting from the start of March and that obviously is the biggest change for residents in that they are limited to window visits unless there is some exceptional circumstance like someone nearing end of life.”
“I think there will be a major review after this and the future will have to be very different – I very much doubt we will ever see visitors coming in to us on a casual basis, instead, everything will be much more structured.
“I expect you will see the introduction of dedicated visiting spaces where visitors can meet residents at a set time and when they leave, the room is cleaned for the next visitor - infection control will be the name of the game.”