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Clarity from Government & NPHET missing as intensified infection supports for nursing home care to cease this week

Sunday June 27, 2021

27th June 2021: Nursing Homes Ireland has reiterated call for clarity from Government as vital funding support that has supported intensified infection prevention control (IPC) measures in nursing homes is to cease from Thursday, 1st July. Withdrawal of financial support for measures that sustain the intensified IPC practices in nursing homes are contrary to Covid19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel, public health and HIQA recommendations to nursing homes. The Temporary Assistance Payment Scheme, introduced by Government in May 2020, has supported nursing homes to increase deployment of staff and to introduce and enhance utilisation of specialised equipment to intensify IPC measures.

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO states: “The Covid19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel, public health and the regulator HIQA have all recommended intensified infection prevention control measures continue within our nursing homes. Yet, the State is this week cutting the funding support that it introduced to encompass costs not covered by Fair Deal fees. We have sought clarity from Government but it is not forthcoming. Representation and concerns brought to NPHET has elicited zero guidance. Are nursing homes to stand down the measures given the State is now abdicating its role in supporting such? How is it conceivable it is stipulated nursing homes continue to implement intensified infection prevention control measures yet specific supports are withdrawn minus any replacement mechanism or explanation? It is not acceptable to present ‘continue as you are’ but the means to support is being pulled.”

Minister for Older People Mary Butler has acknowledged the Expert Panel recommendations require funding supports but states TAPS is not the appropriate mechanism. Mr Daly comments: “The Government has acknowledged there is a requirement to fund the new measures being embedded in nursing home care but then turns off the support scheme it has in place and no alternative is implemented. The complete contradiction is compounded by non-clarity from Government and its public health advisors NPHET.  Nursing homes wish to continue implementation of the measures but their support is being withdrawn.”

NHI points to the regulator HIQA’s warning within its Annual Report published 9th June:  “COVID-19 continues to present a real and present danger to all who live and work in nursing homes. In the interim of overcoming this disease, we must remain vigilant and do everything we can to shield the most vulnerable from this virus.” Mr Daly states: “On one-hand we have the health regulator stipulating everything must be done to protect nursing homes from the virus and on the other we have the Government pulling the scheme specifically introduced to support intensified infection prevent control practices. While vaccination offers residents excellent protection, the advice is clear from the regulator, Expert Panel and public health: intensified measures should not be stood down and will be part of the longer-term practice within nursing homes.”

Covid19 has delivered a very different landscape for nursing home care, moving it from a social care to a more medical-care based model. Intensified infection prevention control measures have become embedded in nursing home practice. For example, visiting a nursing home now is very different to what is was pre-pandemic, with intensified infection prevention control measures in place to facilitate such and staff are now dedicated to facilitate bookings and to accommodate the visits. Every cost recovered under TAPS is itemised and approved by the HSE.

NHI CEO Tadhg Daly is available for further interview. Interviews will be facilitated by Michael McGlynn, NHI Communications & Research Executive, who can be contacted at 087 9082970.