Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has announced that his party will bring a motion before the Dáil which calls on the Government to begin a full public inquiry into the scandal of nursing home neglect and deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The motion will be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“Sinn Féin will bring a motion before the Dáil supporting families’ calls for the Government to begin a full public inquiry into the scandal of nursing home neglect and deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is a crucial issue which has devastated many families across the state and I am calling on all TDs to support this.
“At the very beginning of the pandemic, fatal flaws were exposed in our health and social care services. We must take steps now to identify these problems and ensure they do not happen again.
“Many nursing homes were unprepared for any infectious disease outbreak, and the consequences were devastating for the families which have lost more than 2,000 relatives in these institutions alone.
“I want to commend the many nursing home staff who worked so hard under considerable pressure and stress during the pandemic to do their best to look after those in their care.
“However, it is clear that the sector as a whole was unable to cope effectively due to chronic understaffing, weak governance arrangements, poor safeguarding provision, and a lack of investment.
“As social workers and families said at the time – this is an environment ripe for abuse and neglect. Staff and families fear not enough is being done to change this and ensure that residents can get the care they deserve.
“There are a number of key areas where urgent change is needed to learn from these flaws and to protect residents in the future. Sinn Féin’s motion sets out those changes and calls on the government to act.
“One key issue is that visitations – even window visits – were not facilitated in far too many nursing homes. This led to the further neglect and isolation of nursing home residents throughout the 18 months of Covid-19 until some level of visitation was restored.
“Even still, some homes are not cooperating with official guidance. We are calling on the Government to put visitation guidance into law and empower HIQA to enforce it.
“Another important change needed is that an independent safeguarding authority must be established within an appropriate state agency. Adult safeguarding legislation must also be expedited.
“Families and social workers need to be at the centre of this reform which must clarify legal rights, give social workers the right of entry and powers of investigation in suspected cases of neglect or abuse, and fast track sectoral regulatory and governance reform in line with HIQA’s proposals.
“Mandatory reporting of suspected neglect or abuse must be the norm across the sector and should support and protect workers who come forward.
“Accountability at an organisational level, with appropriate penalties including criminal offences, must be put in place where a failure to govern safely results in harm or death for residents.
“Along with a public inquiry, this is the only way to deliver truth and justice for relatives and friends of those who have died or been neglected by care homes during the pandemic.
“Sinn Féin is committed to standing with families and supporting their calls for truth. Residents of nursing homes deserve to get the best possible care and to know that they are safe. The mistakes of the pandemic must be learnt from to ensure that they are not repeated.”