Nursing homes say big effort needed to keep residents out of hospital this winter

Representative group tell minister extra measures such as on-site therapies needed

The spread of Covid-19 to nursing homes has partially been attributed to residents contracting the virus while hospitalised, and then infecting other residents after returning to their care facilities.  Photograph: Getty Images

The spread of Covid-19 to nursing homes has partially been attributed to residents contracting the virus while hospitalised, and then infecting other residents after returning to their care facilities. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Nursing home operators have told Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly a concerted effort must be made to keep residents out of hospital this winter.

In a meeting on Friday evening, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), the main representative body for the group, urged the Minister to examine measures such as mobile X-ray units, on-site intravenous therapies and site visits from geriatricians.

The spread of Covid-19 to nursing homes has partially been attributed to residents contracting the virus while hospitalised, and then infecting other residents after returning to their care facilities.

The nursing home sector has been the worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, accounting for 985 of the 1,738 Covid-19 deaths.

Tadhg Daly, the chief executive of NHI, said he had held a meeting with Mr Donnelly concerning winter planning and hospital avoidance measures.

“I am very encouraged by my engagement with the Minister, and will be coming back with some considerations in the coming weeks.”

Earlier in the day Mr Donnelly and Taoiseach Micheál Martin met with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to consider winter planning. Speaking afterward, Mr Martin said “this will be a winter much more difficult and complex than any before given the continued prevalence of Covid-19”.

An expert panel on nursing homes, appointed by previous minister for health Simon Harris, delivered its interim report to Mr Donnelly.

According to the report, which has been seen by The Irish Times, data and evidence gathering “are now at an advanced stage of completion”.

The expert panel is now set to focus on the completion of its evidence review and more data analysis.

Lived experience

The report contains no findings, but indicates that the expert panel will be seeking to speak those who live in nursing homes and who worked on the front lines as part of their work.

The panel, according to the report, is “particularly anxious to hear from and understand the lived experience in nursing homes throughout the pandemic”.

“The panel is particularly keen to engage with and hear from those who have been managing the response to Covid-19 on the nursing homes frontline (or) have been providing care in nursing homes throughout the pandemic.

“The voices, experience and learnings from these vital stakeholders will provide a key input to the panel’s deliberations.”

A number of nursing homes have been selected for this part of the panel’s work, including a mix of public and privately-operated facilities, and those which experienced Covid-19 cases, as well as those that did not.

The report shows the four-person expert panel has received 12 separate meeting engagements with stakeholders, consisting of a total of 21 different representative organisations or other bodies.

Submissions

It has also received around 40 written submissions from a public consultation, and 50 submissions from nursing homes themselves.

In addition to these engagements, the panel is also planning to hold meetings with residents and relatives “who have expressed the desire to share their thoughts and experiences with the expert panel”.

These engagements are likely to take place next week.

According to the interim report, a final report will be submitted to the Minister by the middle of this month.

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