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Government Needs to Urgently Meet Nursing Homes Sector

Wednesday March 25, 2020

Sector disappointed Minister for Health hasn’t met it despite numerous requests over four weeks

25th March 2020: Nursing Homes Ireland has requested an urgent meeting with the Minister for Health re the nursing homes sector and the unprecedented crisis presenting for it by Covid-19. While every measure is being taken by the sector to protect residents and staff during Covid-19 and provide best possible care, it feels it lacks the commitment and support necessary from the Minister. Private and voluntary nursing homes are providing care to 25,000 of Ireland’s most vulnerable people.

The sector is disappointed the Minister for Health and the Government is ignoring it during a health crisis that threatens 25,000 residents in private and voluntary nursing homes and a further 5,000 in HSE homes. Despite numerous representations to the Minister for Health, his party colleagues and senior Department of Health officials for a meeting with Minister to discuss the challenges presenting for private and voluntary nursing homes, no meeting has been forthcoming.

Specific guidance is needed as to what nursing homes should do in the crisis.  It is sadly inevitable that nursing homes will experience severe staff shortages at the very time that staff are needed most to care for residents.

We respectfully but urgently ask the HSE to give specific guidance to nursing homes on how they should manage in the crisis and the support necessary from the Government and NPHET.  Furthermore we ask that the HSE give immediate consideration to how some of the additional staff currently being recruited by the HSE will be deployed in the nursing home sector as the need arises.

To not issue specific contingency guidance to nursing homes and to not regard all nursing homes as part of the national health infrastructure that needs to be staffed during the crisis would be unconscionable.

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO states: “It’s astonishing we are now well into a health crisis of a magnitude never presented before and the Minister for Health and his Government have not engaged with a sector providing care to thousands of the most vulnerable people. We view it as a failure by the Minister that we have to keep endlessly pursuing him as this crisis escalates hour-by-hour, day-by-day. Unprecedented challenges present in ensuring we are positioned to meet the care needs of nursing home residents. Yet we are chasing the Minister for Health for weeks.”

Challenges presenting include provision of specialist and necessary equipment, ensuring we are positioned from a workforce perspective to ensure nursing homes can manage during the emergency, how engagement with the wider health services will work and fellow healthcare professionals with regard to Covid-19 contingency measures.

Mr Daly cited access to personal protection equipment by way of example. “Nursing homes cannot access the required personal protective equipment they require to minimise risk to residents and protect staff as the HSE has commandeered it all.  Suppliers won’t sell to anyone except the Government. There is a lack of consistency being applied by the HSE at local level in facilitating access to equipment.

“We’re told by An Taoiseach and Government we are in this together but the ignoring of our sector defies such pronouncements. We are on the frontline of healthcare delivery in hundreds of communities across Ireland. The lack of engagement is a major insult to nursing home residents and staff and defies logic given the nature of this public health emergency. We have an absolutely essential role to fulfil in supporting our health services during this unprecedented time. Failure to appropriately engage and support our sector will actually diminish the capacity of our health services and increase pressures upon acute hospitals.”

Tadhg Daly is available for interview. Media interviews will be facilitated by Michael McGlynn, NHI Communications & Research Executive at 087 9082970