Coronavirus: 15 deaths reported in single Dublin nursing home

GP resigns from Medical Council after criticising State’s handling of nursing home outbreaks

St Mary’s Hospital in Phoenix Park, which provides residential care to 198 older people. File image: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

St Mary’s Hospital in Phoenix Park, which provides residential care to 198 older people. File image: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Fifteen patients have died from Covid-19 in a Dublin nursing home run by the Health Service Executive (HSE) which has been struggling to contain the virus in recent weeks.

Transmission of the virus has become widespread in St Mary’s Hospital in Phoenix Park, which provides residential care to 198 older people.

The nursing home has recorded 15 Covid-19 related deaths since April 2nd, four coming in the last four days. In fourteen of the cases the patients had tested positive for Covid-19, and one patient was a suspected case awaiting a test result.

In a statement on Monday, a HSE spokeswoman confirmed the number of fatalities.

“We offer our deepest sympathies to their family and friends and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time,” she said.

St Mary’s Hospital has “24/7 medical and nursing management on site, with a nurse specialist in infection prevention and control also working on site”, the spokeswoman said.

“Every effort continues to be implemented to maintain the professional standard of nursing and health care assistant staffing in St Mary’s Hospital during this time.”

There is evidence of coronavirus outbreaks across nearly all units in St Mary’s Hospital, according to a recent internal memo.

The memo, dated April 13th, revealed that apart from one section all units there have “evidence of more than 20 per cent” confirmed or suspected coronavirus infection and transmission was “generalised”.

Elsewhere, a member of the Medical Council, Dr Marcus de Brun, has resigned from his position, days after writing an extensive blog post criticising the State’s response to managing the Covid-19 crisis in nursing homes.

In a statement, the Medical Council confirmed that Dr de Brun had resigned “for personal reasons”. A second member of the council, Alison Lindsay, has resigned on health grounds. Dr Rita Doyle, president of the Medical Council, said she wished to thank both “for their contributions to the Medical Council since their appointment and I wish them well in the future”.

Dr de Brun, a GP, was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2016 General Election, where he ran as an Independent candidate in Dublin Fingal, winning just over 1 per cent of the vote.

In a lengthy blog post earlier this month, he said that herd immunity - when a significant majority of the population is infected with a virus - “is the only available mechanism whereby any given population will become progressively immune to Covid-19”.

A strategy of allowing herd immunity to develop has proved politically contentious whenever it has been advocated, with critics arguing it would lead to a significant loss of life, rather than suppression strategies being deployed by many countries. Dr de Brun argued that such strategies, including lockdown and social distancing, would also allow the virus time to mutate and delay any herd immunity that might be achieved.

In the same blog post, he criticised the Government’s response for being too focused on minimising the chances of the health system being overloaded. He argued that due to relatively low population density and the age profile of the population, a more tailored approach to combating the virus should have been deployed by Ireland.

“Unfortunately, Ireland has not tailored its response to reflect these factors, but instead, has simply followed the lead of other jurisdictions, with entirely different demographics and mortality/morbidity statistics.”

In his analysis, the Irish strategy should have been focused on isolating at-risk groups, including older people, rather than confining the entire population. “Those most at risk, vis the elderly and nursing home residents, have featured as something of an afterthought,” he said.

“Unquestionably the most vulnerable cohort of patients in Ireland are those residents of nursing homes. This fact should have been entirely obvious to all involved in the management of the crisis,” he wrote.