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NPHET should include Nursing Homes

Sunday April 19, 2020

Statement by Tadhg Daly, CEO Nursing Homes Ireland

19th April 2020:  Almost a month ago, on March 20th, we wrote to the Department of Health to say it was an error to have established a working group on the nursing home sector as a sub-committee of the NPHET Vulnerable Persons committee without any representative from the main provider of such care.  It makes no sense to be getting information second-hand or not to have the frontline in the surge at the table.  It is deeply regrettable and indeed tragic that the planning to support nursing homes has been so slow to come to fruition and crucially to implement.

Our decision in early March to restrict visits to nursing homes in the best interests of resident and staff safety was informed by clinical expertise from nursing home representatives across the country. The expert input of our sector can support NPHET and wider health services in addressing the huge challenge that present in managing Covid-19 in our nursing homes. As presented by the Minister for Health, it is critical to also recognise 70% of nursing homes do not have Covid-19 presenting and we must focus on preventing it from spreading further within our sector.

We remain appalled at the decision to establish a working group on nursing homes and exclude representation of the majority provider of residential care of older persons.  This error comes home to roost on a nightly basis as NPHET continues to have to keep introducing more emergency measures for the sector.  It would be more informed if the nursing homes committee included representatives of the sector which provides care in a ‘home from home’ to 25,000 vulnerable residents.

I request an immediate review of this decision by Minister Harris. To say that the decision to establish a group and to continue to exclude NHI after six weeks beggars belief.  It is not too late to get more input and to use everyone to meet the challenges.  This should not be an ideological issue but a clinical move to help our most vulnerable.

The private and voluntary sector and NHI has always been committed to high quality safe care with the residents at the centre of our activity.  In late February, Nursing Homes Ireland communicated with senior officials in the Department of Health regarding Covid-19. Within the communication, we informed of “constant contact with HSE and HSPC” regarding the impending challenges that would be presenting due to Covid-19.  At that point almost two months’ ago we wrote: “We are concerned at the fact that private and voluntary nursing homes have not received PPE and members are reporting that they are unable to access same.”. We noted a statement by the HSE at that time that “adequate stocks” were in place despite the challenges in the market and sought a commitment that adequate supply would be provided to nursing homes.

We appreciate that Covid-19 presented a situation never encountered before for our health services. But it remains unacceptable, given the gravity of the situation that was presenting within other countries and in care homes elsewhere, that nursing homes are still getting mixed messages on the supply of PPE. We would like to facilitate relatives with PPE to see dying relatives but the reality is that supplies for nursing homes are still being rationed.

We continue to try to impress on Minister Harris the importance of timely access to a range of support measures to ensure nursing homes within our communities are equipped from a staffing, medical and resources perspective to protect older people from Covid-19.  We remain shocked that an express commitment by the Minister on Friday afternoon that he would oversee further talks about a package of resources for the sector was abandoned and his officials unilaterally published a flawed scheme that excludes supports for approximately 5,000 residents in nursing homes.  The package only applies to Fair Deal recipients excluding all other residents accommodated for respite, transitional care or who self-pay for care in nursing homes.


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