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GRIEVING FAMILIES WHO LOST LOVED ONES TO COVID-19 IN NURSING HOMES DESERVE ANSWERS July 2, 2021

The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated why there is an urgent need in Ireland to shift the balance of care away from nursing home models, Sage Advocacy has said.

The national organisation, which supports and advocates for vulnerable adults, older people and healthcare patients, said Covid-19 has exposed the dangerous architecture on which the current system of care in congregated settings for older people in Ireland is built.

Sarah Lennon, Executive Director, Sage Advocacy said: “One year ago the Government made a clear commitment to creating a Commission on Care.

“To date it has failed to deliver on this, but it is now imperative that the Commission is established to take on board what Covid-19 has taught us about this country’s high reliance on residential nursing homes.

“It is time to acknowledge that our current system of care with its over-reliance on the nursing home model was totally inadequate to safeguard vulnerable older people from Covid-19.”

Sage Advocacy said families from across the country have contacted the national organisation, whose Nursing Home Residents – Family Forum supports nursing home residents and their families – to share their experiences of losing a loved one who lived in a nursing home to Covid-19 during the pandemic.

Ms Lennon said the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response recommended last October that a public inquiry should be held and that these grieving families deserve answers from Government as to how and why their loved ones died from Covid-19 in a nursing home.

“Last August the Covid-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel published a report which contained 86 recommendations which aimed to ‘safeguard the residents in nursing homes over the next 12-18 months and into the longer term’.

“The evidence shows that these recommendations did not safeguard all residents and with hindsight we have to ask why Covid-19 had such a persistently devastating impact on nursing home residents?”

Ms Lennon believes the Government should initiate an immediate root and branch approach to reviewing the suitability of care in nursing homes and address issues relating to clinical governance in nursing homes.

“A Commission on Care could start the long over-due process of assessing how care for older people in Ireland is provided and examine what alternatives are needed to meet the diverse needs of older people.

“The Commission on Care must state a clear, alternative vision for the future of long-term care, how it will be delivered, how needs will be assessed and supported and how it will be resourced,” Ms Lennon added.

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