In relation to the nursing home referred to by the Deputy, I can confirm sadly that my Department has been made aware that there were a number of deaths as a result of an outbreak of COVID-19. I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones. I have been assured that engagement and support from the relevant agencies is ongoing.
The Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, is the statutory independent regulator in place for the nursing home sector, whether a HSE managed or a private nursing home. The Authority, established under the Health Act 2007, has significant and wide-ranging powers up to and including withdrawing the registration of a nursing home facility, which means that it can no longer operate as a service provider. This responsibility is underpinned by a comprehensive quality framework comprising of Registration Regulations, Care and Welfare Regulations and National Quality Standards.
HIQA, in discharging its duties determines, through examination of all information available to it, including site inspections, whether a nursing homes meets the regulations in order to achieve and maintain its registration status. Should a nursing home be deemed to be non-compliant with the Regulations and the National Quality Standards, it may either fail to achieve or lose its registration status. In addition, the Chief Inspector has wide discretion in deciding whether to impose conditions of Registration on nursing homes.
The Deputy will be aware that the Nursing Homes Expert Panel was established, on foot of a NPHET recommendation, to examine the complex issues surrounding the management of COVID-19 among this particularly vulnerable cohort. The Expert Panel report has added further to our knowledge and learning. This report clearly outlines the key protective measures that we must ensure are in place across our nursing homes. These actions are based on learning from our own and the international experience of COVID-19 to date. The report also recommends additional analysis and examination of the relevant public health and other data sets in order that further causal and protective factors for COVID-19 clusters are identified.
Work to progress the recommendations of the Expert Panel report, particularly those recommendations requiring a priority focus in the response to COVID-19, is ongoing across all of the health agencies and stakeholders. Continued learning and understanding of progression of the disease in Ireland is an integral part of those recommendations.