Coronavirus: 75 care homes at status ‘red’ outbreak

Number of disability centres grappling with clusters of disease nearly triple in two weeks

 HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor  speaking in Government Buildings, Dublin. Photograph: Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor speaking in Government Buildings, Dublin. Photograph: Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

 

Seventy-five long-term residential care facilities are dealing with category “red” outbreaks of coronavirus and facing problems such as serious staff shortages, according to Health Service Executive officials.

There are 425 facilities receiving support from the HSE, of which the majority, 285 care centres, are nursing homes.

The number of residential centres for people with disabilities dealing with coronavirus outbreaks has nearly tripled in the last two weeks, latest figures show.

There are 222 residential care centres where coronavirus outbreaks are “stable” after HSE intervention, with support ranging from teleconference advice around infection control, to the redeployment of healthcare workers.

Of the 75 residential care facilities given a “red” risk rating – which indicates a “significant risk in terms of operation” – 17 are HSE-run centres, said HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor on Sunday.

Some 129 care homes given an amber rating required “significant enhanced supports” to help combat clusters of the virus.

Concerned

The number of outbreaks in residential centres for people with disabilities has increased dramatically in the last two weeks, which Ms O’Connor said was of “very significant concern” for the health service.

There are now confirmed coronavirus outbreaks in 82 disability centres, up from cases in 32 centres on April 13th.

The number of residential mental-health facilities grappling with coronavirus cases has also doubled from 14 two weeks ago to 33 now.

“We have been very concerned about disability and mental-health centres right the way through this,” said Ms O’Connor.

While considerable public discussion had occurred around Covid-19 cases in nursing homes, responding to outbreaks in disability and mental-health care homes is also a “significant challenge”, she said.

In many cases residents in the centres live in congregated settings or community houses, which pose challenges for infection control.

“In some cases in mental-health [centres] people are detained under the Mental Health Act, so we are not awash with options as to how we can provide that care . . . that is a very significant concern to us,” said Ms O’Connor.

Inclusion Ireland, who represents 66,000 people with intellectual disabilities, is to meet Minister for Health Simon Harris on Monday to discuss concerns.

“Families have deep concerns at the lack of reporting regarding the numbers of people with disabilities within institutions who have passed away from Covid-19,” said Inclusion Ireland chief executive Enda Egan.

The organisation called for clarity that personal protective equipment (PPE) would be prioritised to disability centres with confirmed outbreaks, and that Covid-19 fatalities would be reported for the sector by officials.

About 70 per cent of all HSE deliveries of PPE are being sent to nursing homes, said Ms O’Connor.

Nearly 120 HSE community healthcare workers have been redeployed to nursing homes, as well as staff from acute hospitals, with consultants also providing remote support and advice.

Demand for HSE accommodation

Additional counselling support is being introduced for front-line healthcare workers over the coming weeks by the HSE, due to staff dealing with high numbers of deaths in facilities such as nursing homes. “We know that people are very, very stressed working in those environments,” said Ms O’Connor.

There has been a “significant uptake” in demand for HSE staff accommodation over the past week, she said. Some 1,050 staff applications for temporary accommodation were approved in recent days, with the majority of housing located in north Dublin, she added.

Dr Siobhán Kennelly, HSE clinical lead for older persons, said there is “no evidence” to suggest the transfer of older people from acute hospitals into nursing homes had spread the virus into care homes.

The rollout of testing to all residents and staff in nursing homes and other residential facilities with confirmed cases would likely change our understanding of the virus, she said.

The expanded testing plans would likely detect positive cases in “high levels of people in those facilities who do not have symptoms”, she said.

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