A review will be undertaken of working conditions of staff in the State’s nursing homes, under a wide-ranging report into the sector published on Wednesday.
The report will also call for improved education and professionalisation, as well as imposing new rules that will see nursing homes forced to prove their infection control standards are up to scratch before receiving new patients.
The report was commissioned by the previous minister for health, Simon Harris, and has been published by his successor Stephen Donnelly.
It is understood the employment terms and conditions of nurses and healthcare assistants will be subject to a review by Government, with the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment likely to be asked to take the lead.
The report will also recommend that it be a requirement to have personal protective equipment readily available in nursing homes around the State, with a supervisor on hand to ensure it is used appropriately.
It will also call for the influenza vaccine to be prioritised for all residents, and to consider making it mandatory for staff to take the vaccine – a landmark step for the State.
Pay and conditions within the nursing home sector, as well as the provision and proper use of adequate supplies, have been suggested as possible reasons for the rampant spread of Covid-19 through the sector, with almost 1,000 pandemic-linked deaths recorded among residents and staff.
Nursing home providers will be mandated to improve education and professionalisation standards in the workforce, with staff required to hold or be working towards a QQI level five qualification within 18 months.
There will also be changes to admission policy, with only nursing homes which can demonstrate their infection control measures are of sufficiently high standard to ensure there is no risk of onward infection .
Hiqa will be asked to maintain a register of nursing homes it deems to have demonstrated sufficient infections control standards, to support decision making on this issue.