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Watchdog warned HSE of 'high risk' in care homes

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Mary Dunnion sent email

Mary Dunnion sent email

Mary Dunnion sent email

The health watchdog warned the HSE over nursing home operators trying to move residents with Covid-19 to other facilities.

Records released by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) include an email about several "high-risk" nursing homes in need of priority support, including one that was seeking to transfer infected residents out.

"A strategic approach required as providers will increasingly opt to take this option," wrote Mary Dunnion, Chief Inspector of Social Services, in an email sent to the HSE on April 3.

The home is not identified in the redacted correspondence released under the Freedom of Information Act.

It was noted that six other high-risk facilities were experiencing issues with access to testing, PPE and staffing at the time.

Decimated

"The demands and the ability of some of the sector to respond will become increasingly challenged," Ms Dunnion added.

"It is important that we get a joined-up approach to these increasing high-risk centres.

"Some providers are not equipped to deal with this level of healthcare needs."

At the time the email was written, there were a total of 38 clusters of Covid-19 infections in the country's nursing homes, according to HPSC figures.

Separately, in an email forwarded to HIQA, initially sent to Health Minister Simon Harris and Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan, one nursing home operator described being in "dire straits" over the alleged lack of support from the State.

By April 12, six lives had been lost at the facility linked to Covid-19 and a further 15 residents were ill.

"Our staff have been decimated," the email said.

"It was not our experience that healthcare workers were prioritised for testing and it appears that prioritisation only applied to the HSE."

Staff shortages had left one nurse dealing with 80 patients during the night shift on occasion, it was claimed.

"We have tried to access the HSE staffing support promised by your department and have received the assistance of only one nurse and two healthcare assistants," the operator wrote.

"The nurse has based herself in the office, only works nine-to-five, and told us she does not work weekends. This is not the assistance we need."

When the history of Ireland's pandemic is written, the operator wrote, the failure to adequately support nursing homes would be "the greatest tragedy of the pandemic".

Earlier this week, the Secretary General at the Department of Health said that nearly one-fifth, or 18pc, of residents in nursing homes have had a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19.

Jim Breslin denied nursing homes were discriminated against after claims that they were "abandoned" at the outbreak of Covid-19.

Mr Breslin told the Oireachtas special committee on Covid-19 that the deaths in nursing homes are the "most difficult aspect of our national experience".