‘The system failed to properly clinically oversee nursing homes and there was a chronic lack of communication infrastructure between the HSE, the Department of Health and homes.” That is the conclusion of Sinn Féin TD Ruairi O Murchu who has reiterated calls for Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to publish the expert review into Dealgan House nursing home in Dundalk.
Deputy Ó Murchú has previously called for a full, public inquiry to be held into the deaths of 22 people from Covid-19 at the Dealgan House nursing home – something family members of some of those residents at Dealgan House who died during the outbreak of the coronavirus are also demanding.
Wednesday saw the publication of the Covid-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel Report, a review of Covid-19’s impact on nursing homes. It including 86 recommendations such as that staff employed by nursing homes should be precluded from working across multiple sites for the duration of the pandemic and that Health Information and Quality Authority should carry out more inspections of nursing home premises.
It also stated that residents should continue to be prioritised for testing with rapid reporting of results. The latter is an issue the TD has previously spoken about, citing a tailing off in the speed i which test results were turned around in nursing home settings.
Deputy Ó Murchú said the report “laid out the overall context for the devastation that was the tragic result of an inadequate system.”
“There can’t be the same reliance on the private sector to look after older people. It is absolutely vital that poor practice and dysfunction in nursing homes are arrested straight away and there is a commitment and adherence to the very best procedures, and this is clear from the report.
The Minister for Health has previously stated that the Expert Review on Dealgan House was completed and had intimated that it would be published soon, although he made those assurances almost one month ago. The TD says he, along with family members of those who lost their lives and remaining residents in the home, are anxiously awaiting the publication.
O Murchu also added that a public inquiry into the matter was a must.
“The report contains no answers, however, for the families of those who died from Covid-19 in Dealgan House and I continue to support them in their quest for a public inquiry into what has happened here,” he said. “It is the only way they are going to get answers as to what took place. A public inquiry is the only correct means of ascertaining, assessing and addressing some of the serious issues raised in the expert panel report such as infection control and staffing levels.
“Families, and indeed the owners of the nursing home, have repeatedly stated they are looking for answers as to how so many people died at this facility. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has now got this report on his desk, along with last month’s report from HIQA on Covid-19 in nursing homes.
“We await the publication of the HIQA inspection at Dealgan Nursing Home and when it is published, Minister Donnelly will have everything he and his predecessor said they needed in order to make a determination about a public inquiry.”
The Deputy added that there needed to be urgent and complete reform of how older people are looked after older people.
“Rather than the almost inevitable journey to a nursing home, many older people should be able to be cared for in their own homes, with better quality of life for them. With the publication of this report, the government has been told in stark terms: the current system is failing older people and their families, with devastating consequences.”
The report published on Wednesday also recommended mandatory infection control training for all grades of nursing home staff and that each home should have an emergency supply of personal protective equipment, to avail of in the event of a cluster.
The report also stated that all new residents coming from the community or hospital settings are tested for Covid-19 prior to admission.
It is estimated that there are around 30,000 people living in nursing homes in Ireland and nearly 20% of them contracted Covid-19 since March this year.