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Covid-19 Pandemic

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 14 July 2020

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Questions (1058)

Alan Kelly


1058. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health his plans to employ new methods to ensure nursing homes nationally have enough staff and PPE. [14900/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Covid-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented challenge across our health services. As the disease has progressed, a range of enhanced measures for nursing homes recommended by NPHET on 31st March and 3rd April are being implemented. The enhanced measures build on actions already adopted for nursing homes, including general and specific infection prevention measures, specific public health and clinical nursing home guidance published March 17th and subsequently updated, social distancing measures, visitor restrictions and cocooning. A number of webinars were delivered in March and April to provide support and advice to nursing homes including in relation to infection prevention and control.

While nursing home providers are ultimately responsible for the safe care of their residents the HSE is providing staffing, PPE, Oxygen, training and other supports to nursing homes where needed. The HSE has an established process in place for access to PPE and this is the appropriate avenue for nursing homes to engage as required. It has also established 23 HSE COVID Response Teams across the CHOs, to provide support and expert guidance to all long-term care residential settings. These teams comprise of a Director of Nursing as well as clinical and public health expertise and links to acute hospitals.

Together with this unprecedented support to the nursing home sector a COVID-19 Temporary Assistance Payment Scheme has been established to support nursing home providers by contributing towards additional COVID-19 costs such as staffing, enhanced cleaning and infection prevention and control. The original scheme was due to end on June 30, after 3 months, however the scheme has now been extended for a further 3 months until the end of September. This extension will give further support and certainty to this sector.

Furthermore on foot of a National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommendation, on 23 May a COVID-19 Expert Panel on Nursing Homes was established, to examine the complex issues surrounding the management of COVID-19 among this particularly vulnerable cohort.

The purpose of the Panel is to examine the national and international responses to the COVID-19 crisis, and to examine the emerging best practice. Its main objective is to provide immediate real-time learnings and recommendations in light of the expected ongoing impact of COVID-19 over the next 12-18 months. COVID-19 is a new disease, which can present atypically in the frail elderly, and new evidence and best practice in its management are constantly emerging. I expect the Expert Panel to submit their final report to me later this month.

Question No. 1059 answered with Question No. 1054.