A prominent Dublin doctor has resigned from a medical board over the Government's handling of the coronavirus crisis in nursing homes.
Nursing homes are now the frontline of the battle against the virus. Almost two-thirds of the deaths from the virus are residents of long-stay centres.
Dr Marcus de Brun has described the management of the crisis as "the biggest political blunder in the history of the Irish State".
The GP has run the Rush Family Practice in Co Dublin since 2010. He is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He also holds a degree in microbiology.
The doctor was appointed by Health Minister Simon Harris to the board of the Medical Council two years ago after being nominated by GPs for the role. He has now resigned from the board in protest at the lack of focus on nursing homes.
Dr de Brun says the strategy to isolate the entire population means those most at risk have "featured as something of an afterthought".
"Unquestionably the most vulnerable cohort of patients in Ireland are those residents of nursing homes. This fact should have been entirely obvious to all involved in the management of the crisis.
"Most of these individuals are of course elderly and most have significant underlying health conditions. Nursing home residents cannot or could not be expected to avail of the same measures applied to the general public," he wrote in an article criticising the handling of the crisis.
Dr de Brun says their needs and care were only considered at a ministerial level in late March, long after the arrival of the virus in late February.
"It beggars belief, and remains an evolving tragedy, that these vulnerable people were not considered as the first priority for the State, rather than being the last to be considered," he wrote.
There are 455 private nursing homes and 120 HSE-run facilities across the country and 248 of these have residents and staff who are infected.
In a bid to bring the infection under control, a plan to test all residents and staff in long-term facilities has started and around 4,000 were tested in recent days.
Nursing homes, which are suffering staff shortages, are also being supported by workers redeployed from the public system and other HSE-funded agencies while also getting enhanced clinical and infection control expertise, the HSE says.
Nursing Homes Ireland has been involved in a spat with Mr Harris over funding.
The organisation says it remains shocked an express commitment to oversee further talks about a package of resources for the sector was abandoned.
Officials published "a flawed scheme" which excludes supports for approximately 5,000 residents in nursing homes, where residents are not supported by Fair Deal.
The scheme excludes all other residents accommodated for respite, transitional care or who self-pay for care in nursing homes, the body says.
Mr Harris has defended the scheme and the Government's record on managing the outbreak in nursing homes.
He says "lots of efforts" have been undertaken in residential facilities to slow the spread of the virus.
The Department of Health says Mr Harris understands a member of the Medical Council has, in recent days, indicated his intention to tender his resignation.
"To date, notice of this resignation has not been received and in these circumstances it would not be appropriate to comment further," the department said.
"The council plays an import role in public protection by promoting high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among doctors.
"The minister is grateful to all council members for their efforts and commitment to this role."
The Medical Council said Dr de Brun resigned for "personal reasons". Two members of the council resigned.
Alison Lindsay resigned on health grounds.
Medical Council president Dr Rita Doyle thanked both Ms Lindsay and Dr de Brun for their contributions since their appointments and wished them well in the future.
The process for filling the two vacancies will be carried out in conjunction with the Public Appointments Service.
The Medical Council is made up of 25 members, 13 lay and 12 medical. It has a statutory role in protecting the public by promoting the highest professional standards among doctors.