HSE appoints investigator to assess St Mary’s whistleblower claims

Also, outbreak of coronavirus in Dundalk nursing home has ‘stabilised’ – management

There have been 24 coronavirus-related deaths to date at St Mary’s Hospital nursing home in the  Phoenix Park. Photograph: Eric Luke

There have been 24 coronavirus-related deaths to date at St Mary’s Hospital nursing home in the Phoenix Park. Photograph: Eric Luke

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The Health Service Executive (HSE) has appointed an independent investigator to examine allegations made by a healthcare worker of shortcomings at St Mary’s Hospital nursing home in response to Covid-19.

St Mary’s, located in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, is a HSE-run facility with 150 nursing home beds and a separate 48-bed step-down hospital. It has been one of the worst-hit nursing homes in the State, with 24 coronavirus-related deaths to date.

Last Wednesday a staff member made a protected disclosure to the HSE, Department of Health, and Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).

It is understood the protected disclosure alleged shortcomings in the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the home, lack of testing for staff, and issues around the isolation of patients at the start of the outbreak in late March.

On Monday, correspondence from the HSE sent to the whistleblower outlined an independent investigator had been appointed to assess the protected disclosure. Both the HSE and Department of Health have said they cannot comment on protected disclosures.

The staff member raised serious concerns over access to PPE with senior management at the outset of the outbreak, internal correspondence shows.

In an April 4th email to senior management, the staff member expressed concerns over the criteria for when healthcare workers should wear PPE, and that the process of identifying suspected coronavirus patients was “unclear”.

The email stated the worker was “gravely concerned” about the lack of PPE gear, over fears staff would transmit the virus from one patient to others.

In response to the outbreak, the home has put in place a series of infection-control measures. The HSE has previously said the facility currently has “adequate” supply of PPE gear, and had followed National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) guidelines at all times.

Dundalk nursing home

Elsewhere, a major coronavirus outbreak in a privately run nursing home in Dundalk has been contained, according to the home’s management.

Dealgan House has had 23 fatalities among residents since April 1st – 22 of which were related to Covid-19.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) Hospital Group had taken over the running of the home on April 17th, due to serious staffing shortages at the Co Louth facility.

In a statement on Monday, an RCSI spokeswoman said the situation in the home had “stabilised” and there was “currently no further spread of Covid-19”.

Staffing support provided by the hospital group had “enabled safe staffing levels for residents”, she said.

There were weekly meetings to plan the safe handover of operations back to the private provider, as Dealgan House staff returned after coronavirus diagnoses or self-isolation, the spokeswoman said.

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