Coronavirus: nursing home outbreaks rise five-fold in a week

Health Protection Surveillance Centre says there are 50 outbreaks in nursing homes

Chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadhg Daly: the group has welcomed new measures announced by the Department of Health to curb the spread of Covid-19 in nursing homes. Photograph: Bryan James Brophy

Chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadhg Daly: the group has welcomed new measures announced by the Department of Health to curb the spread of Covid-19 in nursing homes. Photograph: Bryan James Brophy

 

The number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in nursing homes has risen to 50, according to the last epidemiological report from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The vast majority of nursing home clusters of the disease are in the east of the country - 39 - but outbreaks have been reported in all parts of the country apart from the south-east and the north-east.

Most of the nursing home outbreaks are in private facilities, but the HSE said on Sunday there have been outbreaks in nine of its nursing homes.

The scale of coronavirus cases in nursing homes has come into focus due to a five-fold increase in the number of clusters of infections in residential care homes for the elderly in the space of just over a week, from nine on March 24th.

A cluster is defined as two or more laboratory-positive Covid-19 cases in an institution, according to the HSE.

On Saturday the Government announced a series of measures to assist nursing homes cope with the coronavirus outbreak, including financial support of up to €72 million, the appointment of national and regional infection control teams and temperature screening of staff twice a day.

The nursing home sector welcomed “that the focus has shifted to nursing homes now where our most vulnerable are living” after planning by the Government for the hospital system and wider society had gone for months.

There are about 440 private nursing homes and 120 HSE-run nursing homes in the country with about 30,000 residents.

Nursing Homes Ireland, the group representing the sector, said continued priority testing had to be given to residents and staff in nursing homes and timely access to personal protective equipment (PPE) “must become the norm”.

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, said nursing homes could cope with residents infected with Covid-19 in their care “if they have the right supports” from the Government, the HSE and other State agencies.

“We can cope, but we do need the right PPE and assistance with staffing,” Mr Daly said.