Sage Advocacy is calling on the Government to provide answers to grieving families whose loved ones died from Covid-19 in a nursing home, on the one-year anniversary of the first reported cases of Covid-19 in a nursing home in Ireland.
The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) was informed of the first case and cluster of Covid-19 in nursing homes on 16th March 2020.
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said it is imperative that grieving families, some of whom have now been waiting over a year, get the answers they need in order to be able to come to terms with the loss of a loved one.
Ms Lennon said: “The Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response recommended last October that a public inquiry should “be held to further examine the circumstances of deaths in nursing homes and provide answers for the families of the deceased”.
“But since that time there has been no progress on an inquiry and we know that many, many more families have tragically lost people who they loved dearly and they have told Sage Advocacy that they cannot begin to come to terms with that loss until they can understand what happened and if more could have been done to have prevented the huge loss of life from Covid-19 among our nursing home residents.”
Ms Lennon 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: “We know from our work that many, many families did not get the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to one of the most important people in their lives and we believe the voices of these families must be heard.
“We know that while these families are grief stricken, they are also angry because they want to know why their loved one contracted Covid-19 in an environment, where they believed, they should have been safe.
“In particular, when the Covid-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel published its report to the Minister of Health last August it clearly stated that its objective was to “identify lessons learned” and “to seek to apply these insights in a tighter timescale in order to improve the outcome of the ongoing response” to Covid-19 in nursing homes.
“Despite that report last summer, the question remains as to why Covid-19 was able to have such a persistently devastating impact on nursing home residents. Families want to know if the recommendations made by the Expert Panel were taken on board and was enough done in order to protect both nursing home residents and the staff who cared for them during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Expert Panel report contained 86 recommendations which referenced several key stakeholders and agencies including the HSE, HIQA, Department of Health and private and voluntary nursing home providers.”
Ms Lennon said it is important that every stakeholder reflects and learns from the experiences of families whose loved ones died in nursing homes from Covid-19.
“We need to urgently examine issues of clinical governance in nursing homes and we must start to address the dangerous architecture on which our current system of care in congregated settings for older people is built.
“But first and foremost, we must try and give families who have lost loved ones who were residents of nursing homes to Covid-19 the answers they are seeking. Because if we do not, we will fail not only these families but the memory of their loved ones that they lost to Covid-19”.