Staff shortage at Co Laois nursing home is increasing risk of harm to residents

Manager says home, which has eight residents with Covid-19, will have to close unless it gets more staff

Staff shortages in a Co Laois nursing home are increasing the “risk of harming our residents”, the general manager of the centre has said.

Valerie Moore, from Oakdale nursing home in Portarlington, said if they do not receive help with regards to staffing, they will have to close the doors of the premises.

Ms Moore said 29 staff members have been out since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, with six staff members testing positive for the virus, two of which are nurses.

The centre also has four other nurses that are cocooning at home due to various health reasons.


Ms Moore said her fear is “increased risk to residents” as a result of the staff shortages.

“We have capacity for 58 residents, we dropped our numbers to 49 in an effort to create an isolation unit which we are using now for our eight positive residents,” she said. She expects them to recover.

Staff caring for those eight residents are completely separate to others.

“ What’s happening now is we have one nurse upstairs with our eight Covid residents and one carer. And then we have one nurse, with carers, to manage the rest of our residents which are 41 in total. Our building is built like a square — there are two sides and an upstairs, that means the nurse has to cross over from one side to the other and through three different sections on our long corridor, to administer medication, to tend to residents’ care needs, which isn’t recommended from a cross infection and contamination point of view. The risk is much higher.

"My fear is increased risk to residents - while our nurses and our carers are all trained in infection control procedures and adhere to all precautions, when you're going to take off PPE for one resident to cross right over to the other side, to put on PPE again and if you have an emergency situation, which you can have as a regular occurrence, it's going to be rushed, it's going to be hurried and mistakes are likely to happen. It's increasing our risk of making a mistake, it's increasing our risk of harming our residents which is what we don't want to do," he told RTÉ Radio One's Today with Sean O'Rourke.

Ms Moore added that they “desperately need nurses” until the nurses who are in quarantine can come back to work.

“[I] hope to keep doors open, I feel today there’s a glimmer of light. The last thing I want to do is close the doors, but if we don’t get help, we will have to do so. I’ve never prayed as much in my life,” she said.

Last week, the nursing home made an appeal to former health care workers, nurses or any allied healthcare students who are at home from college to contact Oakdale if they can provide any assistance during the Covid-19 crisis.

Ms Moore has also written to the HSE seeking help with the issue, and has secured an additional night nurse who will work two nights a week from next week.

“I am hopeful, the director of nursing is coming over from the HSE, from Portlaoise hospital to have a look at our rosters, to have a look at our staffing, possibly after today we might be in a better position,” she said.

“I appreciate that the HSE are now looking at us and they are trying to help. Hopefully with that look today, we will succeed.”