The HSE says it has stabilised staffing at a Co Galway nursing home where 26 out of 28 residents and all but four staff have tested positive for Covid-19.
Despite claims by the director of nursing at the Nightingale nursing home that it had been abandoned during its virus outbreak, HSE officials insisted rosters at the facility are covered for the next three days and specialist support is being provided.
One resident of the nursing home in Ahascragh has died and two have been hospitalised in the latest mass outbreak of Covid-19 in a long-term care facility.
News of the outbreak prompted criticism from local and Opposition TDs but Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the Dáil some comments made were “factually incorrect” and “spread fear and anxiety very wrongly in the community”.
Fully protecting older people in nursing homes will be impossible unless community transmission is brought under control, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan warned last night.
The HSE has supplied one nurse and one care attendant to the nursing home to support staff drafted in from Roscommon University Hospital, along with volunteers. The extra staff means the nursing home, which saw one nurse and one care worker doing 13-hour shifts to care for patients before the crisis became public, now has cover for the coming days.
Director of nursing at the home, Patricia MacGabhann, who herself has tested positive for Covid-19, told The Irish Times she had begged for help from the HSE as staff were withdrawn from duty. The HSE had promised to send two carers yesterday , but “nobody showed up”.
The residents are “citizens of this country and the State has an obligation to look after them. They [the HSE] are not giving us the help. They kept batting it back to us saying: ‘Go and find agency staff.’ But we cannot get any,” she said.
According to HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor, public health officials declared an outbreak on Sunday, the day a resident tested positive when hospitalised, and testing was carried out on Monday.
That day, infection control staff intervened and a dedicated manager was put in place to provide support, she said.
“It has been a challenge to secure staff, especially agency staff,” Ms O’Connor said, adding that agency staff were sometime unwilling to go into a home due to outbreaks.
Just four out of almost 600 nursing homes are currently regarded by the HSE as being of significant concern due to outbreaks.
“We’re nowhere near where we were in the spring,” Ms O’Connor said.
A further three coronavirus-related deaths and 1,066 new Covid-19 cases were reported yesterday as the country entered its first day of a six-week lockdown.
For the first time in months, the five-day average of cases has stopped increasing, but National Public Health Emergency Team official Prof Philip Nolan said it was “far too early” to say this was a trend.
He said every reduction by 100 of daily Covid-19 cases will result in 120 fewer hospitalisations, 15 fewer intensive care admissions and 20 fewer deaths over the next month.
Earlier, HSE chief executive Paul Reid apologised to the 2,000 people who tested positive for Covid-19 and were asked to tell their own close contacts. “It’s an unfortunate situation, I regret it,” Mr Reid said.
However, the decision was the right one, given the pressure on the service, though the relaying of information to the Taoiseach had not been well handled, he said.