Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has said that the Expert Panel report on nursing homes paints a bleak picture of many years of failure.
This is due to the poor, almost non-existent, clinical governance framework and the lack of an adequate structural relationship between nursing homes, the Department of Health, and the HSE.
Speaking this evening, Teachta Cullinane said:
“This report paints a bleak picture of failure over many years. Some homes, but more distressingly, successive governments, have neglected to put in place adequate processes and procedures to protect residents of congregated settings.
“Older people and people with disabilities resident in nursing homes have been abandoned by the state.
“The report recommends the development of a single, integrated system of long-term support and care, spanning all care situations. This must be advanced as we look to a new model of care for older people.
“It is important that the process of decongregation for people with disabilities is advanced as part of this move to a new model, which will enable autonomy.
“There is clearly very poor clinical governance across the sector, which is backed up by the recent HIQA report.
“The structural relationship between nursing homes, the Department of Health, and the HSE is severely lacking. Clear delineation of roles, processes for coordination and communication, and standardisation of infection prevention and control measures must be a priority.
“It is highly worrying that homes had such a deficit of expertise when it came to IPC risk management, as well as deep understaffing and unpreparedness to replace sick staff.
“It is astonishing that this sector was left to its own devices for so long, and now we have paid the price.
“As of the end of June, 22% of cases and 56% of all Covid-19 deaths occurred in nursing homes. That is almost 1,000 confirmed deaths. Only 5% of people over 65 live in communal establishments. The disproportionate death toll is staggering.
“I am again calling for an Oireachtas Special Committee to perform an in-depth examination of what happened in nursing homes.
“This committee would be time limited and would examine the preparation and planning for Covid-19, and the preparation of guidelines and procedures.
“It would also examine communications and the structural relationship that exists between nursing homes, the Department of Health and the HSE. We must also examine issues relating to clinical governance, and the ability of nursing homes to deal with the spread of Covid-19.
“The committee would evaluate the reports from the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, HIQA, and the Expert Panel, alongside testimony from residents, staff, and affected families to complete the story.
“Such a committee could clearly identify the facts to make recommendations on the future of the sector, its relationship with the health service, and a new model of care for older people.
“Any Oireachtas examination would be without prejudice to any potential statutory inquiry, and could make cross-party recommendations on the most appropriate avenue to progress that.”