‘Commission on Care’ is needed

 

Sir, – Marese McDonagh writes that former minister for justice Nora Owen is concerned that the Covid-19 crisis has “exacerbated difficulties” following the “sudden shutdown in March 2020 of daycare facilities and respite services” (“Owen urges Government to establish commission on care”, News, May 10th). Ms Owen also urged the Government not to forget how the pandemic had affected nursing homes, and her comments are timely and important.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the faultlines in our systems of health and social care, but it did not create these faultlines, it merely exposed them. We now have a better understanding of the dangerous architecture on which our current system of care is built and its heavy reliance on congregated settings such as nursing homes. We are presented with an opportunity and hopefully, a motivation, to address this issue for now and for the future.

There is a strong commitment in the programme for government to a “Commission on Care” which would take the lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic and assess how care for older people is provided and examine alternatives to meet diverse needs.

The primary task of the proposed commission should not be to restate the policies or rehash research into the suitability of the present model. This is a well-worn path, most recently explored by the Nursing Home Expert Panel which made several key recommendations. Instead, the Commission on Care must state a clear, alternative vision for the future of long-term care, how it will be delivered, how needs will be assessed and supported and how it will be resourced.

The time to deliver on this commitment is now. It should not be delayed until what we hope are better and brighter days ahead. We now need the outline of an integrated model of long-term care and clear implementation benchmarking while recommendations from the Nursing Home Expert Panel are fresh in our minds and the impact of the pandemic is still keenly felt.

This is a complex task, but it is an essential one. The opportunity before us is to either grasp the nettle or continue our high reliance on residential nursing home care which presented such major difficulties in responding to the challenges of Covid-19.

We need to make a commitment to every person in Ireland who requires care that we will, as a country, learn from our recent experiences. It is incumbent on us to work together to create an integrated system of care that gives people a choice about how and where they want to be supported and cared for. – Yours, etc,

SARAH LENNON,

Executive Director,

Sage Advocacy,

Dublin 7.