The Government has provided extensive support to the Nursing Home Sector since the start of the pandemic. The Temporary Assistance Payment Scheme (TAPS) was established in April 2020 as a temporary, administrative measure to respond to the challenges being faced by the nursing home sector at the start of the pandemic, and was extended twice beyond its original planned end date.
In broad terms, TAPS had substantially fulfilled its temporary purpose of providing financial support to nursing homes to address COVID-19 and therefore it was appropriate to end the standard assistance element of the scheme in June 2021. From June onwards, in recognition of the residual risk presented by the virus, Minister Donnelly and I have agreed to the continued availability of the outbreak assistance element of the Scheme until the end of this year. This will ensure that contingency is available in the event of an outbreak.
According to the most recent available HSE data, from 24 November, over 8,172 claims had been processed, with some €120.7 million euro of direct financial support provided to the sector. Due to the extension of outbreak assistance, claims continue to be received and paid; €1.75m has been paid to nursing homes under 75 separate claims for outbreak assistance since the end of June. In total, €134.5 million has been made available under TAPS between 2020 and 2021.
There continue to be a number of outbreaks reported in nursing homes each week; however, current data suggests there may be a reduction in the number of associated cases per outbreak. The State has continued to prioritise residents of nursing homes in the response to COVID-19, including through the successful and early roll-out of the vaccine programme to nursing home residents. This prioritisation is continuing with the roll-out of booster vaccines to nursing home residents, which is expected to be completed by early December. The roll-out of booster vaccines has provided important protection for residents - booster vaccines for the over 65's commenced at the beginning of October and were substantially completed within a three week period.
As the pandemic has continued, many further support measures for private and voluntary nursing homes have been made available through the Health Service Executive (HSE), including the provision of PPE on a no-cost basis, the implementation of serial testing, the support and engagement of COVID-19 response teams and public health teams, the temporary accommodation scheme for nursing home staff and further supports. Many of these supports will continue to be provided by the HSE for the foreseeable future.