Coronavirus: ‘Critical’ that care providers have input to nursing home panel

Nursing home body says voice of the sector ‘wasn’t heard’ at the start of pandemic

Many nursing homes reported issues around the supply of PPE  for staff. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty

Many nursing homes reported issues around the supply of PPE for staff. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty

 

It is “critical” that the experience of nursing home operators is taken onboard by an expert panel set up to examine how the Government responded to the coronavirus pandemic in the sector, Nursing Homes Ireland has said.

The industry group represents private and voluntary nursing homes, which make up around 80 per cent of the entire sector.

The four-person expert panel will examine national and international measures in response to Covid-19, as well as emerging best practice to ensure all response measures are prepared for.

On Saturday, Minister for Health Simon Harris announced the make-up of the panel, who will issue a report by the end of June.

The expert panel will be chaired by Prof Cecily Kelleher, principal of the college of health and agricultural sciences at University College Dublin. Prof Kelleher will be joined by Prof Cillian Twomey (a retired geriatrician), Petrina Donnelly, group director of nursing at the RCSI Hospital Group, and Bridget Doherty, representing the public interest.

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), said while the industry group did not have a seat on the panel, Mr Harris had given commitments it would be “consulted” by the group.

Previously NHI has been critical that the sector did not have a seat on the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) sub-committee for vulnerable groups. The Health and Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) represents the nursing home sector on the sub-committee, given its watchdog role in inspecting providers.

“The voice of the sector wasn’t heard at the start of this crisis, we have to ensure we don’t repeat those mistakes” Mr Daly said.

Rapid spread

In March, many nursing homes reported issues around supply of personal protective equipment and timely testing for staff and residents. In many cases outbreaks of coronavirus spread rapidly through homes following the first cases, with a number of facilities reporting more than 20 fatalities.

The virus has had a devastating impact on the sector, with Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes accounting for half of the national total.

It was “critical” that the expert panel drew on the “voice, ideas and experiences” of nursing home providers, who were the “frontline” of the crisis, Mr Daly said. That included both NHI and the Health Service Executive (HSE), he said.

“It is important to look back, but it is also important to look forward, particularly in the light of any second wave,” he said.