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.
Residents of nursing homes are vulnerable because of their age, underlying medical conditions, the extent of their requirement for direct care involving close physical contact and the nature of living in congregated settings. The very infectious nature of COVID-19 makes it difficult to prevent and control in residential care settings. The transmission of the virus into and within nursing homes is multifactorial. As identified by the Nursing Homes Expert Panel, where there is ongoing community transmission, settings like nursing homes are more vulnerable to exposure.
The State’s responsibility to respond to the public health emergency created the need to set up a structured support system in line with NPHET recommendations. This has been a critical intervention in supporting the resilience of the sector in meeting the unprecedented challenges associated with COVID-19.
These supports remain in place and include:
- Enhanced HSE engagement;
- Multidisciplinary clinical supports at CHO level through 23 COVID-19 Response Teams;
- Supply of precautionary and enhanced PPE, free of charge;
- Serial testing programme for all staff of nursing homes;
- Where possible, access to staff from community and acute hospitals;
- Suite of focused public health guidance and training resources.
- Temporary financial support scheme established, with over €80.1m in additional funding support provided thus far at 26 March. The Scheme is open until 30 June 2021;
- Temporary accommodation to nursing home staff to support measures to block the chain of transmission;
- HIQA implemented a Regulatory Assessment Framework of the preparedness of designated centres for older people for a COVID-19 outbreak and published an Infection Prevention and Control Assurance Framework for Nursing Homes
As these are operational matters, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.