Covid-19: Two more residents die at Royal Hospital Donnybrook

Outbreaks in nursing homes up to 193, with 4,300 positive cases in homes last month

There was 4,300 positive Covid-19 cases for the month of January in nursing homes across Ireland, with staff making up 37 per cent of positive cases, the Oireachtas health committee has been told. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

Two further residents have died during a Covid-19 outbreak in the Royal Hospital Donnybrook, where more than a quarter of the residents had contracted the virus during an outbreak in early January.

In total five residents have died with Covid-19, after 23 of the 81 residents tested positive last month.

The south Dublin facility provides step-down rehabilitation care for patients following treatment or surgery in St Vincent’s Hospital, as well as a number of nursing home wards.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the hospital said 21 of the patients who had tested positive had now recovered. There had also been a small number of new confirmed cases in the past week.

“The number of confirmed cases is reducing. The number of positive patients has now reduced to nine out of 78,” the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhil, the Department of Health has told the Oireachtas committee that some 369 deaths associated with Covid-19 had occurred in nursing homes in the last month.

The health committee heard evidence on Tuesday on the impact of the pandemic in nursing homes, which have accounted for 37 per cent of more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths in January.

The impact of the wider levels of community transmission, and the virulence of the new strain of the virus, were identified as factors driving the level of infection in nursing homes.

There are currently 193 outbreaks in nursing homes, resulting in 4,300 positive cases in January associated with staff and residents – 37 per cent of these diagnoses relate to healthcare workers, the committee was told.

A total of €66.9 million has been paid out to nursing homes providers in temporary assistance payments, and more than €100 million has been spent on PPE, cleaning, and other efforts to maintain welfare of residents, the committee was told.

David Cullinane, the Sinn Féin health spokesman, said he had been contacted by families struggling to get basic information about their loved one in a nursing home, including instances where they cannot get through to the home on the phone.

Sandra Tuohy of the HSE said her department had been contacted by families with concerns that they could not get answers in respect of how their loved ones are doing in nursing homes.

A large number of nursing homes which do not have outbreaks are still open for admissions, John Lahart TD was told – but there has been a significant reduction in applicants for the fair deal scheme, partially due to a policy shift towards supporting people at home, the committee heard.

The impact of Covid-19 outbreaks on residents was also discussed, with TDs and Senators told that residents can become “deconditioned”, lose weight and be impacted in terms of mental and physical health during an outbreak.

‘Very precarious’

The situation in nursing homes is “very precarious”, with more than 1,800 staff unavailable for work leaving many “severely constrained”, an Oireachtas committee heard.

Tadhg Daly, the chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) told the committee that while the majority of nursing homes do not currently have Covid-19 outbreaks, “the entire health service is under immense strain”.

“Staffing is the predominant emergency that presents across our health service,” he said.

Mr Daly also questioned whether a “critical window of opportunity” was missed by not initiating widespread vaccinations of nursing homes immediately after shots arrived in the country.

He said just 10 per cent of the initial 77,000 vaccinations administered by mid-January were within nursing homes, and said that the first vaccines arrived in Ireland on December 26th, yet the first was only administered in a private or voluntary nursing home on January 7th, 2021.

HSE figures show that on January 13th, 7,925 vaccinations had been administered in long-term residential care facilities, while 69,378 had been given to healthcare workers.

In December, The Irish Times reported the plan to vaccinate nursing homes was slightly delayed after reports of anaphylaxis emerged in some individuals elsewhere.

Based on these reports, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) said it would prefer if the first tranches of vaccines be given in hospitals, where expert medical support would be available in case of adverse reactions. Nursing home vaccinations were accelerated on January 8th.