Speaking after today’s Health Committee session on Covid-19 in nursing homes, Róisín Shortall TD, co-leader of the Social Democrats, expressed her serious concern and disappointment that so little has changed since the first wave of the pandemic.

Deputy Shortall commented:

“It is shocking that we are now seeing a second tragic wave of Covid-19 in our nursing homes. There has been a complete failure on the part of Government to learn lessons from the first wave. Right now, there are 193 outbreaks in nursing homes across Ireland and we are seeing case numbers as bad as last April and May.

“The Nursing Homes Expert Panel published a detailed report in August with recommendations on what needs to change in order to better safeguard older people in long-term residential care facilities. Sadly, the progress on implementing these changes has been far too slow. Despite the Minister for Health saying he was ‘fully committed’ to adopting the recommendations, there has been slow progress made since the report’s publication.

“We know from the report what went wrong, so why have we not seen changes? Delays in implementing those recommendations have had a very real impact on the upsurge of the virus in nursing homes over the past month.

No clinical oversight

“Successive Governments have held elder care at arm’s length, viewing it as a business and preferring to leave it to the private market. This has resulted in no proper clinical oversight of private nursing homes, a situation which continues, despite this shortcoming being identified last spring.

No safe staffing ratios

“There is still no safe staffing ratio set out for private nursing homes to ensure adequate levels of nurses.

“Now we are in a situation where Covid-related absences have led to another staffing crisis in the sector and the HSE may be unable to redeploy staff into private nursing homes in the event of further outbreaks. The situation is on a knife edge.

No statutory homecare scheme

“Despite having a statutory right to nursing home care, there is still no statutory right to homecare in this country. It has left many older people with little choice but to go into congregated settings, which are not conducive to allowing people to live the way they want from a social perspective. From a safety perspective, during a pandemic they are problematic.

“After the devastating Covid-19 outbreaks in the spring of last year, there were Government promises of a new model of care and support for older people. Regrettably, these have now slipped down the priority list.

“A statutory homecare scheme was promised to be introduced in 2021, but that commitment has been delayed by Government. It is completely unacceptable when we are witnessing this crisis in our nursing home sector to continue pushing back this incredibly important piece of work.”

February 2, 2021

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