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Pressures continue for nursing homes across staffing, PPE & testing

Friday May 8, 2020

8th May 2020: Many private and voluntary nursing homes are under immense staffing strain because of Covid-19, a new NHI survey informs.  Around half of private and voluntary nursing homes informing the snapshot survey undertaken 6th May informed over 1,000 staff are unavailable. The survey also informs results from testing are taking a number of days to be returned to nursing homes and issues persist with regard to sufficient access to PPE.

A synopsis of the survey is available to download here.

Key findings emanating from the survey that was undertaken by 233 private and voluntary nursing homes (circa 460 operating across the country):

  • Staffing: Nursing homes informed of 306 senior and general nursing staff being unavailable due to Covid-19; 606 Healthcare Assistants being unavailable and 240 from other disciplines, totalling 1,152 staff.
  • Staffing: The deployment of HSE staff to nursing homes continues to amount to small numbers. The nursing homes informed of 40 nurses from the HSE being redeployed; 26 healthcare assistants and 13 other staff.
  • PPE: 40% of nursing homes said they do not have sufficient supply of Facemasks, despite recently introduced HSE / HPSC policy facemasks should be worn when in close contact with a resident.
  • Testing: Almost half (45%) of the nursing homes responding to the survey informed they had incurred a wait five days or beyond for the results of testing to be returned. One quarter (25%) were awaiting the results of tests undertaken.

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO states: “Nursing homes remain under immense pressure in managing Covid-19. Pressures continue to be applied across staffing, PPE and testing. It should be acknowledged the State stepped forward to support our sector late in the day and this has made an impact. But seismic challenges persist and we continue to engage with the Minister for Health, his Department and the HSE in addressing such. We reiterate our call for the State’s assistance scheme to enable nursing homes meet huge costs incurred to manage Covid-19 to encompass the 5,000 residents in our nursing homes that are not funded by Fair Deal.”

With approximately half of private and voluntary nursing homes completing the survey, the indication is 2,000+ staff are unavailable to private and voluntary nursing homes due to Covid-19. Missing such a significant staffing complement places a huge strain upon the sector. “Covid-19 presents a crisis that our health services cannot manage in isolation,” Mr Daly states. “Huge pressures are presenting in nursing homes across the country and we are aware nursing home staff are undertaking huge sacrifices to not compromise the care they are providing to residents. We welcomed the support offered by the HSE in staffing redeployment and appreciate those that have stepped forward. But it is disappointing that the number has been small.  As presented by nursing homes experiencing staffing crises, just a little help goes a huge way towards relieving staff who are undertaking tremendous sacrifices to maintain care levels in our nursing homes during an emergency period. At the heart of this is care of older people and those most susceptible to this cruel virus.”

The vast majority of nursing homes confirmed mass testing has been undertaken but concerns persist around the turnaround of results for residents and staff. “Timely turnaround of testing is absolutely vital to enable nursing homes implement required contingency measures,” Mr Daly states. “But we can see from the survey around half of nursing homes had to wait five days or longer for test results to be returned and a quarter were still awaiting. Mass testing has been a welcome development but we cannot leave nursing homes in limbo as they strive to manage in unprecedented circumstances. Tests from nursing home residents and staff must be top of the queue.”

One considerable concern arising from the survey is the provision of facemasks. Three weeks ago NPHET directed facemasks should be worn by healthcare workers, including staff in nursing homes, when they are in close contact with care recipients. “The very nature of nursing home care is it entails close contact between the care giver and the care recipient,” Mr Daly states. “But it is evident from the responses a huge shortfall for facemasks presents for many nursing homes and we would consider across other health services. The HSE is endeavouring to ensure nursing homes are provided with PPE but clearly they don’t have the supplies they require. Many nursing homes inform they privately sourced PPE and have continued to resort to such. The availability of specialist equipment remains limited and we endorse the Taoiseach’s call on last Friday’s Late Late Show for such equipment to be stockpiled in the future to ensure supply is readily available in the event of health emergencies. Staff are tremendously dedicated to meeting the health and social care needs of residents in our nursing homes during this unprecedented health emergency. But there is still important work to undertake to provide them with required protection.”


Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO is available for further comment. Contact Michael McGlynn, NHI Communications & Research Executive at 087 9082970.