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Gerontologist: Winter Period must focus on enhanced supports and model of care for nursing home residents

Thursday September 10, 2020

Thursday, 10 September, 2020: The requirement to redevelop the model of nursing home care in Ireland and to take lessons from the management to date in Ireland and elsewhere of Covid19 must become an urgent focus for Government as we move into the Winter period, NHI’s Gerontology Expert Professor Dermot Power has warned.

He states: “The recent tragic consequences of Covid19 emphasises the urgent and pressing need to enhance Ireland’s model of nursing home care. Nursing homes provide care to some of our weakest and most vulnerable citizens. As we enter into the Winter period and continue to live with Covid19, we must focus our minds on taking the steps necessary to support these nursing homes to enhance and augment the care they provide to people with significant comorbidity and frailty.”

As we face into what may become the busiest and most challenging period for our health services, Professor Power said there is a clear need to sustain and enhance the Covid19 response teams, which provided vital support to nursing homes in preventing and managing the threat posed by the virus. These teams can help redress the critical deficiencies identified within the current nursing home model, he adds. “The Covid19 Expert Panel’s recommendation regarding the establishment of community support teams, encompassing the establishment of a GP lead to work with each individual nursing home, has to become an immediate priority for our health services. Complementing this, the panel recommended greater integration of private nursing homes into the wider framework of public health and social care.

“We must press for a new era for nursing home care. Greater and more formalised collaboration between nursing homes and medical and health professionals in their locality must become the norm for healthcare provision in every community. Considerable clinical expertise exists within nursing homes but there is requirement for a more structured clinical partnership at local level. In keeping with the Expert Panel recommendations, we need a model that entails nursing homes having enhanced access to clinical expertise in the community, providing greater support for residents with varied medical, health and social care needs. If we are to press on with implementation of Sláintecare, there is requirement to enhance wider integration of nursing home care within our health services. This will also entail fundamental assessment regarding the resourcing of community healthcare professionals.”

Professor Power has been recently appointed to the role within NHI. It will entail providing expert gerontological advice to NHI and its 400 Member nursing homes, while retaining his geriatrician, physician and teaching roles with the Mater Hospital and UCD.