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NURSING HOME RESIDENTS SHOULD HAVE CHOICE AND CONTROL OVER THEIR CONTACT WITH THEIR FAMILIES October 7, 2020

Families and relatives of the 30,000 people who are residents of nursing homes across Ireland do not want their loved ones “locked away” because of the threat of Covid-19, Sage Advocacy has said.

The national charity, which provides a support and advocacy service for vulnerable adults, older people and healthcare patients, acknowledges that the over-riding priority for the entire country should be to protect and safeguard more vulnerable people in our society.

But Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said that nursing home residents and their families also need clear direction from the Government and senior health officials that protective public health and other infection protection and control measures have been introduced and are in place to safeguard residents of nursing homes.

“We are asking the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly if the Government has any other plan that does not revolve around locking away nursing home residents? That is what families who have loved ones in nursing homes desperately want to know today.

“Anyone who has a loved one in a nursing home wants to protect them, they want the strictest infection protection and control measures to be implemented but they also want to be able to visit and see their mother, their father and their relatives in person. Nursing home residents have a right to see their families and should have choice and control over their contact with their families.

“It is nearly 50 days since the Government received the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel Report which set out a road map to protect nursing home residents.

“Families and residents need the Government to make a public statement, informed by the oversight team, on the progress made on the essential recommendations set out in the Nursing Home Expert Panel report.”

Some of these include:

  • Ensuring sufficient availability and appropriate use of PPE to long term care facilities.
  • Ensure all new residents coming from the community or proposed transfers from hospital are tested for COVID-19 prior to admission.
  • Development of contingency staff teams.
  • The continuation of HSE COVID-19 Response Teams.

According to Sage Advocacy the former, Secretary General of the Department of Health, Jim Breslin, previously told the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response earlier this year that “while 18% of the 30,000 residents of nursing homes have had a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19, the majority of residents have not”.

Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said this clearly shows that some nursing homes are managing the risk of Covid-19 better than others.

Ms Lennon said: “Dr. Siobhán Kennelly also told the Oireachtas on September 16th that there is very little evidence that visitors introduce Covid infection to nursing homes. We urgently need to be looking at and addressing the factors which are behind the spread of Covid-19 in nursing homes.

“We agree with the Nursing Home Expert Panel that the use of PPE and other infection control measures (droplet and contact precautions, hand hygiene) are essential regardless of whether a case has been reported in a facility.

“We also believe that frequent screening of residents for symptoms, and screening of staff prior to commencing a shift should be implemented to identify at-risk individuals.

“But the evidence does not support a blanket ban on visitors and locking away nursing home residents from their loved ones because of Covid-19.

“Every day families tell us about the concerns they have about the lack of visitation in nursing homes and the important role that plays in the overall health and well-being of their family member – we urge Stephen Donnelly and the Government to act so that the bond between nursing home residents and their families is not irretrievably broken.”

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