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Ó Murchú / ‘Inquiry the only way Dealgan House families can have closure’

Ruairi O Murchu
Ruairi O Murchu speaking in June 2017. Photo Credit: Sinn Fein/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú has reiterated calls for a full, public inquiry to be held into the deaths of 22 people from Covid-19 at the Dealgan House nursing home in Dundalk, while also expressing concern at the length of waiting time for Covid-19 test results at the facility.

The Deputy raised the issues both publicly, in the Dáil last Thursday, and again with Minister for Health Steven Donnelly in a private conversation that day. Family members of some of those residents at Dealgan House who died during the outbreak of the coronavirus have called for an inquiry into the deaths.

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Families whose loved ones are being cared for at Dealgan House were informed by management last week that, as a precaution, two residents were being tested for Covid-19 and, as a result, visiting was suspended. The tests returned negative. But, according to Deputy Ó Murchú, it took approximately 48 hours for the results to return.

“This was very worrying, given the huge tragedy that had unfolded in this nursing home just a couple of months ago,” he said. “A few weeks previously, nursing homes were waiting four or five hours for Covid-19 test results, but this has evidently increased. Thankfully, the tests were negative in this instance, but this is not the sort of set up that we need.

‘Dealgan did the right thing and swiftly enacted the strong government protocols. But the results of tests carried out in nursing homes should not be subject to such inordinate delays and there needs to be a far quicker turnaround.”

Family members who lost loved ones at Dealgan House are requesting to meet with the Minister and are calling for a probe.

“I reiterated the calls from some of the families for a full, public inquiry into what happened here. There are lots of questions that can only be answered in an inquiry. The management of Dealgan House have stated on the record that they too have questions,” Ó Murchú said.

“I also told him that his predecessor, Minister Simon Harris, had given a commitment that he would look at the HIQA report before deciding the next steps and I asked Minister Donnelly to do the same. I mentioned to him that the families had been in contact with HIQA and were apprehensive about the extent and nature of the report, when it is published.

“The only way everything can be addressed – to ensure that it never happens anywhere again and so that families can have some closure – is to have an inquiry.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Ó Murchú, speaking on the issue of mental health, believes that people who are struggling with mental health problems and who also have addiction issues are
“falling between services” – citing a problem of ‘dual diagnosis.’

During the Dáil’s Covid-19 Committee last week, the Sinn Féin TD said that “protocols, resources and legislation [were] required to ensure that no wrong door to access services is put in operation.”

Martin Rogan, CEO of Mental Health Ireland, said that the “separation between mental health services and addiction services doesn’t serve the individual well”.

“We need to build services that are person-centric and are not funding or structurally dependent. People do turn to prescription drugs, alcohol and street drugs as a response to the great distress they are feeling about averse childhood experience or trauma. Families are trying to support them and the no wrong door approach is really important because people need to be received at the point of presentation. We would advise a ‘warm handover’ of people so you don’t get to leave one service until you are handed over to another.”

“It’s not a realistic model to tell young people with psychosis to come back when they have stopped smoking weed. ” Deputy Ó Murchú said that another group who tend to fall between services are those with behavioural problems and it is the case at the moment that Gardaí are having to deal with those.

The ‘no wrong door’ approach aims to provide persons with a universal gateway to healthcare and social services they require.

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