The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly failed to commit to a meeting with the families of the 22 residents of Dealgan House who lost their lives to Covid-19 during an exchange with Fergus O’Dowd TD in the Oireachtas Special Committee sitting on Wednesday.
Fergus O’Dowd, having earlier asked the same question of HSE boss Paul Reid, urged Minister Donnelly to meet with the families and provide answers they continue to search for.
“Families haven’t seen sight of the HIQA report. They are extremely upset. They are not getting answers from the HSE or indeed from government. Their view is that there is obfuscation and delays. They have spent hundreds of euro on Freedom of Information Act requests to determine why the Department put in the RCSI in the nursing home to run,” the Deputy said.
“They have lost family members. They are in trauma. They are are frustrated at the bureaucracy they are meeting.”
In response, Minister Donnelly said; “If I conclude that that in either case, – Dealgan House or Kilbrew (Nursing Home in Ashbourne), the very reasonable questions of the families have not been answered, we will take further steps.” He made no commitment to meeting families or nursing home management.
The Minister said last month that he was in possession of the HIQA report into Dealgan House and added that it would be made public but it has yet to be published.
Earlier in the day, Deputy O’Dowd had implored HSE boss Paul Reid to make himself available to the families. “I think Mr. Reid owes it to the families to make sure he contacts them following this meeting,” he said. “I want him to meet with the families. I believe that he should meet with them and that Mr. Reid has to be accountable. This was the only nursing home in the country that the HSE went into.”
Deputy O’Dowd stated that there was evidence that the HSE were aware that a significant number of staff at Dealgan House were unable to work and were absent due to illness, and wants accountability as to the decision to allow the RCSI hospitals group to take over the running of the home.
Anne O’Connor, Chief Operations Officer at the HSE, said that the circumstances in Dealgan House were such that the HSE worked through the National Ambulance Service to deploy staff there.
“The nursing home experienced such a loss of staff in the facility that, given the concerns at the time regarding maintaining safe levels of care, it was deemed appropriate for the RCSI hospitals group to go in and be able to staff up the facilities. The staff that went in were deployed,” she said.
Deputy O’Dowd also queried Acting CMO Dr Ronan Glynn about the numbers of close contacts of confirmed cases of Covid-19 who do not turn up to take follow-up tests after seven days.
“Somewhere between 70 and 80% of people turn up for the day zero test and on the day seven test, it is closer to 50%. That is a very high figure to not turn up. We weren’t given that figure in July when I asked the same question,” O’Dowd said. “98% of all tests are negative. That in itself is reassuring.”
Dr Glynn replied that a negative test result doesn’t mean a person doesn’t have the virus, but instead it means Covid-19 is not detected at the time the test is taken. “It doesn’t change the clinical outcome. We want more people to come forward for testing.
Deputy O’Dowd also told the sitting of the Special Committee that he was anecdotally familiar with cases where a small number of people who don’t turn up for tests because their presence in the country might not be regularised in terms of their right to live here.