Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Questions (852)

Peadar Tóibín


852. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health if routine Covid-19 testing in nursing homes has proven sustainable; if staff and residents in nursing homes are still being tested every two weeks; and if delays have been incurred specifically in County Meath [26643/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) requested the continuation of the planned programme of serial testing of all staff in residential care facilities (RCFs) for older people over the past  weeks.  This second cycle of the programme ran from 10 August to 4 September 2020.  This programme involved testing of all staff in RCFs for COVID-19 once a fortnight, for four consecutive weeks. 

In answer to the Deputy's question, it has proven both sustainable and valuable to date.  As part of our overall testing and tracing strategy, rigorous contact tracing and automatic testing of close contacts, large-scale testing in outbreak situations and other serial testing programmes means we are finding more cases than we would have previously. 

Cycle 3 commenced on 16 September on the same fortnightly basis. As of 22 September, there have been 12,165 tests carried out in Cycle 3 with 30 cases detected. This represents a positivity rate of 0.25%.

A further schedule has been developed for serial testing of staff in Residential Care Facilities for older persons.  This is a 2 week cycle with swabbing over 7 days.  The majority of RCFs have identified staff who are now swabbing their peers in the RCF. This training has been facilitated by HSE.   

In relation to delays in County Meath, the only instance identified by the HSE, relates to Heatherfield Nursing Home, Dunshaughlin, which has not yet identified staff to carry out swabbing and as a result required support of National Ambulance Service (NAS) to carry out swabbing.  The NAS did not have capacity to carry out swabbing on the original scheduled date Saturday 19 September, so it was scheduled for Monday 21 September, and had to then be rescheduled to Thursday 24 September.